Disposable e-cigarettes outside the law? It will change

Luc Williams

On the initiative of Beata Małecka-Libera, chairwoman of the Senate Health Committee, at a joint meeting with the Climate and Environment Committee in the Senate, a resolution was adopted obliging the Ministry of Health to immediately establish a working group, also with the participation of other institutions, including, among others, The Office of Competition and Consumer Protection or the police, whose aim is to develop ways to withdraw from the market products that do not meet the requirements specified by law.

According to the report of the Institute of Economic Forecasts and Analyzes, a large part of sales are products that frequently violate and violate applicable provisions of Polish law. IPAG data shows that sales in violation of the law may concern up to 60 percent. Polish market of disposable e-cigarettes. The Ministry of Health announced that it is working on a draft bill that will completely ban the distribution of disposable products. Many people agree that this would be the best, but on the other hand there are fears that it is a shortcut that will not bring success. Poland already has restrictive laws: a ban on sales to minors, via the Internet, a ban on advertising, and a specific level of nicotine. But the law is not completely enforced. Hence the problem of the popularity of disposables among minors.

Numerous experts, as well as Beata Małecka-Libera and Stanisław Gawłowski, chairman of the Senate Committee on Climate and Environment, doubted whether a total ban would bring any effect, since the state had practically failed to enforce the regulations in recent years. Why was this so, senators asked, among others: Chemical Substances Bureau, responsible for admitting products to trading.

Agnieszka Dudra, president of the Bureau for Chemical Substances, explained that when the documentation does not meet the requirements, the president of the Bureau finds a violation and issues an appropriate decision. It is then published and forwarded to the Trade Inspection, which is responsible for taking further steps, including checking whether the product is on the market. Dudra added that for over 40 thousand Only over 20 such decisions were issued. – When we find non-compliance with the act, we notify the prosecutor's office – she said. However, as she noted, the prosecutor's office discontinues the proceedings due to the negligible harmfulness of the act. – We have submitted several dozen complaints – she said.

Experts also emphasized that a complete ban in one country on the common European market might not make sense. It would be one thing if the entire EU decided to take such a step. Some experts feared that this would create a gray zone. However, the solution may be to tighten the existing regulations, for example regarding online trade.

– The topic should be approached systematically. The sale of disposable e-cigarettes in Poland cannot be banned. The provision will be ineffective as long as they are sold in neighboring countries. (…) The sale of products should be administratively regulated by introducing excise taxes, prohibiting their sale to persons under 18 years of age, and introducing uniform-colored packaging containing information about the harmfulness of this type of products. The amount of excise duty or environmental fee will also reduce interest in the product among the people we care about the most – said Prof. Marek Chmaj.

However, the Ministry of Health is in favor of the ban. Wojciech Konieczny, Deputy Minister of Health, informed that work on appropriate legislation is underway. The project may be submitted for public consultation in the coming weeks. He noted that the solutions may also include proposals to ban the sale of disposable nicotine-free products.

– At the Ministry of Health, we are working on changes to the legislation regarding tobacco products that contain tobacco and those that do not contain tobacco. The first thing is to implement the outstanding EU directive on flavored electronic cigarettes. Work is well advanced to introduce this directive to Poland. We are probably the last country that has not done this. This should have happened in July last year, at the latest in November. But right now we are ready. The legal act is being prepared, said the deputy minister.

He pointed out that the discussion concerned disposable cigarettes containing nicotine and those without it. This second category of devices is currently not subject to the Tobacco Act. – Currently, we do not have the possibility of greater supervision in their case from the Ministry of Health. Their use is based on the General Product Safety Act. This is a completely different act, the implementation of which can be supervised by the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection, he said.

He assured that the ministry is working on a ban on the sale of disposable cigarettes because it wants to introduce such regulations after all. – A legal act is being developed. The fundamental question is what we will add to it. It is not simple, you need to refer to the definition, include appropriate provisions and authorization for the Bureau (of Chemical Substances – ed.) to be able to test these substances. At the same time, we can deal with other issues by introducing into the Act devices that heat substances that do not contain nicotine, he said.

Disposable e-cigarettes are a serious and complex problem. – Since 2018, when disposable cigarettes and nicotine products appeared on the market, research has been conducted on health and the impact of these stimulants on health and life. I would like to strongly emphasize an important phenomenon – younger and younger people are using e-cigarettes and disposables, (…) making their young bodies addicted – said Beata Małecka-Libera, chairwoman of the Senate Health Committee.

She emphasized that the new stimulant was widely available. In addition to products containing nicotine, there are also those that only contain sweeteners with various flavors based on sucralose. – Sucralose is carcinogenic when heated and entered into the lungs. It is a sweetener that is also addictive. The number of aromas is huge and attracts young people. Doctors confirm that children are drawn into addiction. (…) WHO is sounding the alarm that we have a new epidemic of e-cigarettes smoked by younger and younger people who are becoming addicted – reported Małecka-Libera.

It is true that there is a ban on the sale of disposable electronic cigarettes to minors, and a ban on the sale of disposable electronic cigarettes in vending machines, in a self-service system, and remotely – via the Internet. There are restrictions on the capacity of liquid reservoirs in such cigarettes – it cannot exceed 2 ml. But that's your right and your life. As the senators note, disposable cigarettes containing more than 2 ml of liquid are widely available, and they can also be purchased online, and the products reach minors. Laws are not enforced. This has to change.

Placing electronic cigarettes and refill containers on the market requires the manufacturer or importer to notify and designate a legal or natural person to contact within the EU. Such notification must be made six months before the planned availability of the product. You must provide a list of all ingredients and substances released as a result of using the product, along with their quantities, and provide toxicological data on the ingredients and substances released in the product, including when heated, taking into account their impact on consumer health. It is necessary to provide the dose of nicotine, a description of the product's components, a description of the production process with an indication of whether it is serial production and a declaration of full responsibility for the quality and safety of the product. It is also mandatory to pay a fee.

Stanisław Gawłowski, head of the Senate Committee on Climate and Environment, also drew attention to the extremely low registration fee (up to PLN 7,000). Disposable e-cigarettes also need to be addressed in terms of environmental pollution. – Product fees should be charged on packaging placed on the market or a deposit system should be introduced. We should no longer tolerate exempting this industry from charging fees, because in the end it is society as a whole that has to contribute to the disposal of packaging. Such multi-material packaging is not even suitable for burning. There should be a huge fee,” he said.

Representatives of the waste management department at the Ministry of Climate and Environment emphasized that the environmental footprint of such devices is huge. The biggest problem is the battery, which is covered by ROP (Extended Producer Responsibility). Waste electronic equipment should be disposed of in appropriate containers, not in municipal waste. However, this is not happening. Used e-cigarette packaging ends up in trash cans, and sometimes – like cigarette butts – directly on the ground. It is necessary to take steps as soon as possible to solve this problem.


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