20 June 2013, Brussels - Europe pays a hefty price for its slow action on tobacco, both in economic costs and harm to its citizens’ health and well-being (1). Tomorrow, EU Health Ministers will meet to agree a common position on the revised, smarter Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) (2)
“A majority of Europeans support tobacco control policies (3). They deserve a strong commitment both from the EU Health Ministers and the outgoing and upcoming rotating presidencies of the EU - Ireland and Lithuania respectively. They should make sure that tobacco products are not presented in a way that manipulates people, in particular children and youth, to pick up a smoking habit,” said Monika Kosińska, Secretary General of the European Public health Alliance (EPHA).
This week five committees of the European Parliament (4) are giving their non-binding opinions on the revision of the TPD in a disappointing affair that widely prioritises the interests of the tobacco industry (5) at the expense of people’s health. If European policy-makers keep on basing their decisions on arguments by the tobacco lobby, the final Directive will resemble a tobacco industry report. Additionally, if the approval of the tobacco legislation does not occur by the end of the year, it would put its adoption dangerously close to the next European Parliament’s elections, putting the hard-fought political process back to square one.
In a letter (6) co-signed this week, nine public health organisations stress that the current political procedure around an updated TPD represents a window of opportunity to better control the marketing of an addictive product that kills half of its users when used as intended. Some of the letter’s signatories spell out why Health Ministers, Members of the European Parliament and national authorities should take this piece of legislation seriously:
"Tobacco kills over 650,000 Europeans each year. It is 1,800 people each day, the equivalent of three jumbo jets crashing each day in the EU. This is unacceptable. We need a bold new TPD so that our children are not taken hostage by the tobacco industry," said Francis Grogna Secretary General of the European Network for Smoking and Tobacco Prevention (ENSP).
“The revision of the TPD is aimed at preventing new generations from lighting up by reducing the attractiveness of tobacco, especially to children and young women. It is very disquieting that even if all EU Member States are committed to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), some of them still protect the tobacco industry, in what amounts, to put it mildly, to an unethical practice,” said by Professor Aurelijus Veryga, President of the Lithuanian National Tobacco and Alcohol Control Coalition.
“A strong European legislation preventing the uptake of smoking and making tobacco less accessible and glamorous is essential to protect EU citizens from the hazards of smoking. Smoking causes Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), an irreversible chronic disease that is not curable and reduces one’s life expectancy of more than 10 years and one’s ability to contribute to EU economy. EU leaders must show they care by adopting the proposed tobacco products directive,” said Catherine Hartmann, Secretary General of the European COPD Coalition.
“The Standing Committee of European Doctors (CPME) warmly welcomes the presidencies’ commitment to ensuring that the TPD revision results in a meaningful legal framework to reduce tobacco-related harm. European doctors call on decision-makers to keep health at the heart of the negotiations,” Dr. Katrín Fjeldsted, President of the CPME.
"The EU faces a tobacco epidemic. Tobacco is a lifestyle factor that causes huge number of premature and preventable deaths every year. Therefore, the EU’s transposition of the FCTC is a crucial element to preserve the health of people living in Europe,“ said Professor V.Grabauskas, President of the Health Forum.
Notes to editors
(1) The estimated annual cost of tobacco to the European economy is of more than half a trillion euros, or about 4.6% of the EU’s GDP. Furthermore, close to 13 million people in the 27 countries of the EU suffer from smoking-related diseases, with devastating effects on economies, societies, and healthcare systems - Study on liability and health costs of smokingproduced for the European Commission (DG SANCO, 2012).
(2) The revision addresses the following main issues: (a) how to regulate products which do not contain tobacco, for example electronic cigarettes; (b) labelling and packaging of tobacco products; (c) additives, such as flavourings; (d) internet sales of tobacco products; (e) and racking and tracing of these products.
(3) Attitudes of Europeans Towards Tobacco, Report: Special Eurobarometer 385 (May 2012)
(4) The TPD is subject to co-decision procedure and therefore needs to be approved by both co-legislators: the Council of the EU representing the Member States (in this case the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council –EPSCO-) and the European Parliament (EP). As regards the EP procedure, five Committees (IMCO, INTA, AGRI, JURI, ITRE) are giving this week their non-binding opinion to the leading Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) Committee. After the final ENVI vote in July, the EP Plenary will discuss the proposal in September and vote it in October. Following the Plenary vote, the EP will have the mandate to reach an agreement with EPSCO in the few months before the end of this year.
(5) Tobacco companies claim that large pictorial warnings and standardised packaging of tobacco products will increase smuggling, that tobacco product regulation endangers European jobs, or that labelling and packaging measures are ineffective. There is strong evidence that these statements are not just false but intentionally aimed at preventing or delaying implementation of effective measures to reduce smoking prevalence. Tobacco Products Directive : fact not fiction (by the Smoke Free Partnership).
Javier Delgado Rivera, EPHA Communications Coordinator at email@example.com or +32 (0) 2 233 38 76.