Czech EU presidency puts focus on tobacco harm reduction

As the Czech Republic assumes the six-month EU presidency from July 2022, Czech Republic had a robust agenda that extends beyond traditional priorities. While addressing critical issues like the Ukraine crisis, energy security, and the economy, the Czech government asserted itself as a forceful advocate for tobacco harm reduction within the EU. Amidst ongoing efforts to shape new tobacco regulations, the Czech Republic is committed to steering the EU’s approach towards minimizing smoking-related risks and fostering harm reduction policies.

Current Landscape and Leadership
With the handover of the EU Presidency from France on July 1, 2022, the Czech Republic found itself in a unique position to influence EU policies over the next six months period. Jindřich Vobořil, the Czech National Drug Coordinator, has reaffirmed the government’s dedication to promoting tobacco harm reduction during this critical period. Vobořil recent comments came in connection with the June 2022 release of a new report by the Centre for Economic and Market Analysis (CETA) examining new approaches to EU tobacco legislation. The report also included a Harm Reduction Index, ranking several European countries according to the performance of current harm reduction policies.

Commitment to Harm Reduction
Vobořil, a respected figure in Czech policy circles, emphasizes the importance of incorporating risk reduction concepts in smoking policies. He contends that the European Commission should seriously consider harm reduction strategies to effectively reduce smoking prevalence across the 27-nation bloc.

Czech Government’s Stance
The current Czech government, led by Prime Minister Petr Fiala, explicitly supports harm reduction in its policy proclamation. Advocating for excise duties and regulations aligned with the harm caused by products, the government emphasizes evidence-based and balanced risk prevention and harm reduction in addiction policies.

Nicotine Pouch Regulations
Simultaneously, the Czech government is working on domestic harm reduction policies, with the Ministry of Health actively crafting a three-year action plan that prioritizes harm reduction in public health strategy. Notably, regulations for nicotine pouches, currently unregulated, are in the pipeline to ensure their composition, quality, and properties align with the least possible adverse effects on human health.

TPD3: A Potential Global Benchmark
The commitment to harm reduction coincides with the European Parliament’s adoption of an EU cancer plan that references tobacco harm reduction and the role of alternative nicotine products. The ongoing review of the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) could result in the third revision (TPD3), poised to become a “global benchmark” for regulating new nicotine products, according to the Centre for Economic and Market Analysis (CETA) report.

Looking Ahead
The Czech EU presidency has set the stage for a proactive stance on tobacco harm reduction, influencing the evolving regulatory landscape not only within the EU but potentially on a global scale. As the presidency transitions now to Sweden, the next EU country in line, the prospect of a pro-harm reduction government taking the reins in January 2023 could further shape EU tobacco policies towards harm reduction, fostering a healthier and more informed approach to nicotine consumption.

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