In a comparison of seven European countries, a new study by the Centre for Economic and Market Analysis shows the Czech Republic to be the second most successful in applying a risk reduction approach to its tobacco policy.
The study primarily focuses on evaluating aspects of existing European legislation and documents and trends likely to be reflected in the new upcoming revision of the Tobacco Products Directive. The fundamental question is whether the target of less than 5% of tobacco users among the EU adult population by 2040 set by the European Cancer Plan is realistic.
As the predictive model shows, the European Union can expect to still have 13% of adult factory-made cigarette users in 2040. Moreover, none of the seven countries studied more closely, namely the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Austria, Germany and Sweden, will reach the target of tobacco-free generation on their own either.
So if the Beating Cancer Plan target is not achievable, the question is what steps can be taken to improve the current trend. The CETA researchers suggest that the solution would be to apply a broader harm-reduction approach, i.e. instead of pushing for complete suppression of tobacco and nicotine products, focus on motivating smokers to switch from smoking to less harmful products, thus reducing the burden on the public health system.
Examples of good practices in the spirit of risk reduction policies include excise taxes graduated according to the harmfulness of the product, and introducing different regulatory framework for alternatives such as e-cigarettes, nicotine sachets or snus products than to conventional cigarettes.
The study also includes the Harm Reduction Index, which rates each of the countries according to how consistent they are now in applying this approach to tobacco policy. In addition to Austria, Germany, and especially Sweden, which is traditionally considered a model for tobacco policy, the Czech Republic also ranked very well.
Tobacco Harm Reduction Index
|Rank||Score – total||Score – Regulation||Score – excise duties|
The Czech Republic’s position in the Index results is particularly important given that the Czech Republic takes over the Presidency of the Council of the EU at the beginning of July, and it is to be expected that health will be one of the Council’s priorities in the coming months in the post-pandemic era. The Czech approach to tobacco policy therefore has a unique opportunity to feed into European policy in the revision of the Tobacco Products Directive.
The new Czech government has also already committed itself in its program statement to a risk reduction policy in its approach to addictive substances:
“In addressing the problem of addiction, we will apply a policy based on a scientifically proven and balanced approach to risk prevention and harm reduction, ensuring that both prevention programs and services and regulation of addictive substances are adequately funded to reflect their level of harm.”
In addition to the measures mentioned above, i.e. graduated taxes and a level of regulation proportionate to risk, the study’s conclusion also recommends focusing not on reaching less than 5% of tobacco users but below 5% of conventional cigarette smokers in 2040, as a goal more reflective of harm reduction policy.
Other appropriate steps include a public information campaign on the principles of harm reduction and the relative harmfulness of different products, working with medical and harm reduction experts to incorporate the latest knowledge through consultation in the legislative process, and opening the market to innovation that will allow even greater harm reduction in the use of nicotine products in the future.
Written by Jan Mošovský – analyst at the CETA (Centre for Economic and Market Analysis).