Speaker Interview with Clive Bates

Exclusive Interview with the Director of Counterfactual Consulting Ltd

Q. You will deliver a presentation focusing on “Competent or careless? Directions in European policy on low-risk nicotine products .” Please could you please give us a quick overview of what you would be sharing with our audience?

I want to build the proposition that most of what has been done at European level is counterproductive – protecting the cigarette trade, promoting smoking and adding to the burden of cancer. Because low-risk products are economic substitutes for cigarettes, efforts to degrade the smokefree (vaping, snus etc) ‘value proposition’ relative to smoking has harmful unintended consequences, and that these are obvious, foreseeable and were foreseen.

Q. What do you see as the key trends in the industry at the moment?

The innovation over the last decade has been stunning and inspiring. We are witnessing the processes that will ultimately obsolete the cigarette and render smoking a marginal activity over the next 10-20 years. The industry is advancing on four smokefree fronts: vaping, heated tobacco; smokeless tobacco; and novel oral pouches. The problem is the backlash from tobacco control, politicians, regulators and WHO, based on misunderstandings and misinformation. I am convinced that technology and consumers will win out as the benefits become undeniable. But we are in for a bumpy few years while the opponents slow things down and sustain their unwitting defence of the cigarette business. Hopefully, they’ll come to their sense before to much more damage is done.

Q. What future challenges and opportunities should we be looking out for in the ENDS industry?

The real challenge for the industry is the environment in which it operates. At present I would say this environment is hostile in most of Europe. Three things need to improve. First, the communications environment: what people say and think about vaping, how the news media handles it, how the risks relative to smoking are perceived. Second, the regulatory and fiscal environment needs to become deliberately ‘risk proportionate’ and place harder restrictions and obligations on cigarettes and lighter restrictions and obligations on ENDS. Third, we need to see more and better science and challenges to poor quality or biased science that ultimately corrupts the communications environment.

Q. Why do you think people should attend ENDS 2021?

There is much more to the vaping business than products, customers, marketing, and pricing. The challenges come from regulators, public health, the media, activists, academics, and bodies like WHO. These things all affect what people think about vaping and caping manufacturers. So get yourself briefed on the bigger picture. Given you don’t even need to leave home, this seems like a good call.