Public health civil society organisations expressed their deep concern over the decision taken by the heads of political groups in the European Parliament on 5 September to postpone the debate and vote on the Tobacco Products Directive(TPD). The vote had been scheduled for the European Parliament’s (EP) September plenary session, but has now been delayed until 8 October. EPHA calls on a strong TPD adopted without further delay.
How could it happen?
The main arguments supporting the delay are of a procedural nature saying that “there was not enough time to discuss” as the European Parliament’s Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) report was only published recently, and that “ENVI disregarded other Committees’ opinions”. However, as the rapporteur Member of the European Parliament (MEP) of the TPD ENVI Linda McAvan made it clear in her statement: “All the proper procedures for the vote had been respected and the timetable had been in place since January 2013 so the move is disappointing.”
Strong ENVI position on the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD)
EPHA welcomed the (ENVI) vote in July 2013 which supported stronger measures to prevent young Europeans from taking up smoking and encourage millions of smokers to quit. The ENVI position includes
Continuous Attempts to undermine public health interests
This has not been the first attempt to delay the adoption of the TPD. In October 2012, Health Commissioner John Dalli resigned because of some allegations concerning links with tobacco lobbyists. Some 24 hours later a number of offices of organisations working on tobacco control - including EPHA - were broken into and items stolen.
Furthermore, the Supervisory Committee of the European Parliament had examined the consequences of the Dalligate. Recent MEP questions sign that its potential impact on the adoption of a strong TPD is not clear, yet.
Before the vote, allegations had been made regarding the compromise amendments and the structure of the ENVI voting list. However, as the ENVI Press release available on the ENVI chair, Matthias Groote’s website, made it clear: "these were entirely without foundation and sought to undermine respect both for the committee and for Parliament itself."
Most recently, the media have reported about (European Voice The Guardian, Le Parisien, Der Spiegel), confidential documents have revealed the formidable lobbying operation waged by a tobacco giant seeking to undermine efforts to strengthen the European legislation on tobacco products, and delaying the tobacco products directive has been a key goal of the tobacco lobby.
EPHA calls on a strong TPD adopted without further delay
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. 700 000 EU citizens die prematurely every year because of tobacco consumption and close to 13 million people in the 28 countries of the EU suffer from smoking-related diseases, such as the Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), a long-term lung and airways disease that is not curable.
All reliable scientific data shows that the measures proposed in the European Commission’s proposal would be effective. The evidence is laid out in the comprehensive Impact Assessment of the proposed Directive and shows net gains for the economy and for the society. The only opponents of effective tobacco regulation are tobacco companies and their allies, who are behind sustained, systematic efforts to weaken tobacco control legislation (Photo by © Fried Dough)
Why is it important to adopt the TPD in 2013?
Since there will be European parliamentary elections in May 2014, there is a danger that the election campaign will further delay the adoption of the Directive with valuable months.
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 and the European Parliament (EP). After the final ENVI vote in July, the EP Plenary will discuss and vote the proposal in October. Following the Plenary vote, the EP will have the mandate to reach an agreement with the Council (the Members states) in the few months before the end of this year.
A majority of Europeans support tobacco control policies. They deserve a strong and timely commitment from EU decision-makers. Europe pays a hefty price for its slow action on tobacco, both in economic costs and harm to its citizens’ health and well-being
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