Dear Editor,

We are writing to express our concern regarding the misleading and inaccurate press release issued by the association of tobacco retailers and reported in several media outlets across Europe. The information is part and parcel of the usual propaganda commissioned by the tobacco industry to undermine the European Commission’s efforts to prevent young people from picking up their first cigarette. The alarmist and emotive claims lack any shred of proof because they are simply incorrect:

- A simple reading of consultation report from the European Commission demonstrates that the 85,000 responses were largely the results of a rent-a-mob tactic from the tobacco industry and its allies to delay and undermine the legislative process that would introduce stronger tobacco regulation in Europe.

- There is no evidence anywhere in the world that pictorial warnings or plain packaging would increase illicit trade in tobacco products. On the contrary, smokers’ use of illicit tobacco is related to price and availability. 2 There seems to be a deliberate omission from the tobacco industry in that the only proven measures that do have an impact on illicit trade are legislative measures to control the supply chain such as traceability features on tobacco products, as well as increased international cooperation.

- Most tobacco distributors and retailers derive only a small portion of their revenues from tobacco sales.4 As demonstrated in the World Bank report “Curbing the Epidemic: The Economics of Tobacco Control”, money not spent on tobacco will be used to buy other consumer products.

In light of the evidence and the decades of misleading and damaging public statements from the tobacco industry – which has cost our society millions of lives and billions in healthcare costs – we are disappointed that they have learnt so little. However, even more disappointing is that retailers, mainly SMEs with strong community links, show no concern for the health of their young customers but continue to advocate on behalf of the only product which kills half its long term users.

This action is a clear demonstration that the tobacco industry and its allies cannot be trusted to behave in a responsible manner, and gives greater weight to the increasing trend from governments to reduce its influence and impact.

Plain packing is feasible, legal and easily implementable. It has no cost to governments and works for public health. We trust that the European Commission and Member States are able to see this nonsense for what it is, and fulfil their duty as representatives of the public interest, acting for the health of their citizens.

Yours sincerely,

. Monika Kosinska, Secretary General - European Public Health Alliance (EPHA)

. Archie Turnbull, Executive Director - European Respiratory Society (ERS)

. Florence Berteletti Kemp, Director - Smoke Free Partnership (SFP)

. Luk Joossens, European Cancer Leagues (ECL)

. Jean King, Director Tobacco Control - Cancer Research UK

. Susanne Logstrup - European Heart Network (EHN)

. Catherine Hartmann, Secretary General - European COPD Coalition (ECC)

. Prof. Yves Martinet, President - Comité National contre le Tabagisme (CNCT)

. Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive - Action on Smoking & Health (ASH)

. Francis Grogna, Secretary General - European Network for Smoking and Tobacco Prevention (ENSP)

- You can download the Letter to the Editor an a pdf file

EPHA related articles

- EPHA draft response to Smart Regulation Consultation 2012

- The Smoke Free Partnership releases a report on Tobacco industry preventing the strengthening of European tobacco legislation

- Latest Commission’s figures on tobacco now available

- Bridging the Health Divide in Europe: reduce avoidable health inequalities and preventable respiratory diseases

- Poland: Conference on the harmful success of the tobacco lobby in the country

- More than 80 per cent of Britons believe that children should not be exposed to tobacco marketing

Last modified on September 29 2012.