Harm Reduction or Humbug?

Time:

  • 18/03/2021
    13:00 - 14:00
Improving public health whilst retaining the freedom of choice for consumers can be a difficult pathway to navigate for policy makers. Introducing harm reduction policies without becoming nanny-statists is a difficult balancing act. However, when policy makers introduce paternalistic lifestyle regulations that actually hinder harm reduction, instead of helping it, then some serious questions on their motivation, or about their chosen experts, needs to be asked.

The European Commission has recently launched several initiatives that will make safer nicotine products less appealing to smokers. The Commission’s Scientific Committee on Health, Environmental and Emerging Risks (SCHEER) recently published an opinion which downplayed strong evidence showing that e-cigarettes are a gateway from smoking for millions of people, and amplified speculation about hypothetical risks. Shortly afterwards, a draft of Europe’s Beating Cancer (BECA) plan recommended a full ban on e-cigarette flavours and bans on vaping indoors (and even outdoors). Both fly in the face of Public Health England’s review of the evidence on vapour products which says that “perceptions of the harm caused by vaping compared with smoking are increasingly out of line with the evidence”. Making vaping less accessible and less appealing will have consequences that run directly counter to the Commission’s stated objectives. In its quest to crack down on drinking, the Commission also plans to review EU legislation on the taxation of alcohol and on cross-border purchases of alcohol by private individuals, directly contravening its goal of deepening and expanding the Single Market.

What are the most counterproductive policies expressed by the SCHEER committee and the BECA plan? How can evidence-based policy making be put back on the agenda? Can free market liberals endorse any kind of regulation that curbs the freedom of choice of consumers? Join our panel of experts to discuss!

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