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Profiles in Prohibitionism: Linda McAvan

The key legislator behind the new Tobacco Products Directive in the European Union is Linda McAvan, MEP (Member of the European Parliament) for the region of Yorkshire and the Humber in the United Kingdom.

She belongs to the Labour Party and is a member of the "Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats" in the Parliament. Yorkshire and the Humber (River) is a region in the north central and northeast part of England, whose major cities include Sheffield, Leeds, and the historic city of York. McAvan has been serving in the European Parliament since 1998, and before that she worked in local government. Her husband is also a Labour Party politician, and represents Sheffield in the British Parliament.

Before her election, she worked in local government and community organization. In the EU Parliament, she sits the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety , and the committee for relations with China. The legislator recently replied to a letter from the organization UK Vapers, claiming that she wants "to encourage the potential benefits that e-cigarettes offer regular smokers in terms of harm reduction," but wishes to balance those wishes against the need for long term studies and the importance of a smoking gateway, especially for children. She says that she has "tabled amendments proposing a lighter touch regulatory framework for e-cigarettes," arguing that this action closes "loopholes", among which she mentions "manufacturing problems, quality control, and ongoing monitoring of use" (whatever those vague terms are supposeed to mean). McAvan claims to have taken evidence from E-cigarette companies, vapers, doctors, and regulators, and gives internet addresses for recordings of several EU Parliament hearings, but the addresses do not seem to work.

A report from the Group for the Progressive Alliance of Socialist and Democrats in the European Parliament highlights the need to prevent people, especially children, from taking up smoking, but as usual with such statements, presents no evidence for the claim that e-cigarettes might have such an effect. The report quotes McAvan to the effect that e-cigarette companies will need to apply for a medical classification if they wish to make the claim that the product helps smokers quit. Otherwise they will have to be classified as tobacco products.

Then the report goes on, confusingly, saying that: "In the case of e-cigarettes being put on the market as a consumer product, they should not contain nicotine in a concentration of more than 20 mg/ml. Refillable cartridges would be allowed in case such cartridges have been prohibited in at least three Member states, albeit with a clause enabling the Commission to extend the ban." Come again?