NSP Correspondent - Mirosław Dworniczak | 20 July 2016
On July 8th the Polish Parliament passed an act transposing the EU Tobacco Product Directive (TPD) into national law, some weeks after the mandated date of May 20th. This marks the end of a legislative process that started two years ago.
The first draft of the act was based on a straightforward transposition of the TPD, without any additional requirements. However, in November 2015, there were parliamentary elections in Poland and right now we have a single ruling party (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość – Law and Justice) and a new government, with Dr. Konstanty Radziwiłł as Health Minister. He is well known for his hatred of e-cigarettes and used to say frequently that e-cigarettes are as bad as conventional ones - possibly even worse.
The first draft of the Ministry of Health invoking the option that any EU country may include additional requirements and restrictions – such as banning online and cross-border sales – despite these not being part of the articles in the TPD.
Vapers and vaping advocates learned about these additions in December 2015. We immediately contacted government officials responsible for drafting the act. Many e-mails were sent, accompanied by scientific papers on e-cigarettes, and there were also several phone calls and conversations. There were numerous official petitions sent formally to the Prime Minister, Ms. Beata Szydło, and another sent to the Polish President. Alas nobody from the Ministry of Health would agree to meet representatives of the vaping community to discuss these most important issues and the campaigning failed to produce any changes in the proposed legislation. Of course we know the TPD has to be implemented, but not the additional requirements, with their capacity to cause unnecessary additional harm.
In March this year an important report was published by Professor Andrzej Sobczak, of the Silesian Medical University, who has been the head of the group studying e-cigarettes since 2011. The conclusion of his paper was simple: e-cigarettes are much less harmful for human health than smoking regular cigarettes. This report was also sent to the ministry. Following this we had the British Royal College of Physicians report in April, which was also forwarded to MPs in the Parliament and on the back of these, in May this year, vapers started to campaign for a parliamentary public hearing regarding this implementation. This met with no response from the authorities. In June there was the Third Global Forum on Nicotine in Warsaw and the organizers tried to invite government and parliamentary officials to discuss the most important issues. Once again there was no response.
Voting on the legislation took place on July 8th and, as was expected, the law was passed. The law has now been sent to the Senate for ratification, but we can be sure that the Senators will not make a single change in the text. Then there will be the final step – President's signature. Nobody expects any objections, as the President is strongly associated with the ruling party. Finally, there will be vacatio legis – 14 days after the official publication of the law.
So we can expect new rules will come into force in mid-August. Several hundred businesses selling only online will be just wiped out from the market. Many people will lose their jobs. And most important, hundreds of thousands of Polish vapers, living in small cities and villages, will immediately lose access to e-cigarettes and e-liquid. Ironically, everyone will still have almost unlimited access to tobacco cigarettes – they can be bought even in a shop in a smallest village in Poland.
So, we expect very tough times for Polish vapers.