After being for some time the only EU member state to allow only nicotine-containing e-cigarettes on the market, Greece has taken a step forward by regulating the sale of nicotine-free vapour products.
It has opted to treat them in exactly the same way as nicotine e-liquids, amending its transposition of the European Tobacco Products Directive (TPD).
But the decision to regulate all types of e-liquid the same, regardless of whether or not they contain nicotine, has not been welcomed by all members of the scientific community, some of whom have already called on the authorities to rethink their policies.
The bill, adopted and published in the government gazette (Εφημερίδα της Κυβερνήσεως), includes the prohibition of certain additives and certain hazardous ingredients in non-nicotine e-liquids.
It brings in certain requirements related to packaging and warning messages, which the government in Athens says “protect against use by children”. And it extends to non-nicotine e-liquids the prohibition on cross-border selling.
Non-nicotine vaping products are now subject to the same restrictions as those containing nicotine in terms of advertising and sponsorship in media outlets (including printed publications, radio, online platforms and TV).
The government also introduces a prohibition on the sale of ingredients and flavours used for do-it-yourself e-liquids.
The obligation on manufacturers, importers and distributors to submit notification to the Ministry of Health is now extended to those nicotine-free liquids.
The government has established a transitional period for products which do not comply with the requirements of the legislation.
But a group of researchers, healthcare professionals and experts in policy control led by Konstantinos Farsalinos has written to the Greek authorities calling for the amendment to be reconsidered.
The letter accuses the authorities of adopting the wrong policy and says some of the proposed measures, such as health warning labels for nicotine-free products, “are paradoxical”.
“The proposed legislation does not protect public health but simply envisions a climate of disinformation,” the letter says.
Experts offer help
Farsalinos and his fellow experts call on the Greek authorities to to take a more considered view of the role of tobacco-alternative products such e-cigarettes.
They say: “We believe that a strategy to reduce the damage of smoking should be adopted immediately, to protect public health and improve the health of millions of Greek smokers.”
The signatories to the letter offer their help in shaping a new policy towards e-cigarettes in the country.
The Single Market Transparency Directive requires that when a bill in an EU state affects the European market the government must submit a notification to the European database TRIS, a tool for assessing compliance of national draft technical regulations with EU law before their adoption.
After this notification there is an automatic standstill period of three months so other member states can comment.
In this case, the Greek government notified the TRIS database of its amendment on 5th March and the standstill period is in force until 6th June. But the law was officially published on 9th March, giving other member states no chance to express their views.
The European Commission was asked whether the Greek government’s action was in breach of the Single Market rules but officials in Brussels said the procedure had been carried out according to the rules.
What This Means: While the move to provide regulation for nicotine-free vapour products may be seen as a step forward from the previous anomalous situation in Greece – where e-cigarettes were only allowed if they contained nicotine – the decision to equate all e-cigs regardless of nicotine content is not universally seen as the right step. A group of respected public health experts is among those who think the authorities have got it wrong. This is already a rethink by the Greek government; does it have another think coming?