Following several other examples where breaches of transparency such as keeping economic stakeholders in the dark while encouraging member states to ban the European Commission has once again raised concerns about nicotine pouches calling their popularity a serious health concern, despite a lack of concrete data supporting their claims.
Nicotine pouches offer an alternative to traditional tobacco products like cigarettes. Notably, nicotine pouches do not involve the combustion of tobacco, which is the primary source of harm associated with smoking.
While there is limited long-term data available on the health impacts of nicotine pouches, to our knowledge, no credible source indicates that the potential risks associated with these products come anywhere close to the harms of inhaling cigarette smoke.
This recurring focus on the risk of nicotine pouches not only perpetuates misinformation but also disregards the principle of proportionality, which would demand a fair comparison between various nicotine-delivery methods, particularly in comparison to smoking and traditional cigarettes. There are over 80 million smokers in the EU and one does not support those who want to quit by removing reduced risk alternatives.
Questioning the Lack of Data
The European Commission’s repeated assertion of nicotine pouches as a “serious problem” appears to be more driven by ideology than hard evidence. While it is important to monitor the usage and potential health effects of emerging products, it is equally crucial to base policies on sound scientific research.
Regulation doesn’t necessarily have to find public authorities and industry on opposite positions. The UK recently adopted an outspoken strategy to use alternative nicotine products as a policy tool in their strategy to reduce harm from tobacco use. Several Member States have chosen to adopt a balanced regulation on nicotine pouches and Sweden is about to lower taxes on nicotine pouches since it is a reduced risk product. Other member states, for example France is considering the health potential of low-risk products for smokers who are unable to quit. In our view it is disconcerting that the Commission disregards the existence of these trends without having provided scientific evidence suggesting that an outright ban, or excessive restrictions, of a category would be likely to present a better outcome.
The principle of proportionality is a fundamental legal principle in EU law. It is used to ensure that any EU action or legislation must be suitable for achieving a legitimate objective. It should not go beyond what is required to achieve the stated objective and the benefits should outweigh the drawbacks, and the EU should choose the least burdensome means to achieve the objective. The principle of proportionality is essential to prevent the EU from overreaching or imposing overly burdensome regulations and acts as a safeguard to ensure that EU legislation respects the rights and interests of individuals and member states.
The European Commission (or some of its consultants) has already allegedly been considering a ban or severe restrictions on nicotine pouches: this raises questions about the Commission’s commitment to the principle of proportionality and to the use of scientific evidence as a foundation for legislation as well as how they see their role in the responsibility to addressing public health concerns.
As such, it becomes imperative to reevaluate the Commission’s approach to ensure that EU actions and legislation remain proportionate and in harmony with the core principles of EU law.
Taking into account the existing data and the success of harm reduction strategies in various member states, it is imperative that the Commission reevaluates its initial stance on nicotine pouches. Failing to do so will hinder the use of safer alternatives for those seeking to manage their nicotine use and protect their health. We strongly urge the European Commission to consider all available evidence when considering new policies and to ensure proportionality in their decision-making to the benefit of EU citizens.