The first weeks of this autumn are proving eventful. October saw the vote on the revised Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) at the European Parliament (EP) plenary. Among other measures, the EP supported mandatory pictorial warnings covering 65% of both sides and at the top of tobacco packs, the restriction of characterising flavours, and strong regulation of novel tobacco products. While the Parliament rejected the ban on slim cigarettes, it maintained Member states’ option to adopt more stringent measures to regulate tobacco products, such as plain packaging.
The European public health and tobacco control community cautiously welcomed this move. The text adopted by the EP is not perfect - among other reasons, given the intense tobacco industry lobbying - however, it advances EU tobacco control in several areas compared to the legislation in force. Negotiations among the EP, the Council and the European Commission have started with the aim of reaching a compromise before the European elections in May 2014.
Earlier in the month, scientists, public health researchers and NGOs reacted with concern in light of leaked copies of the European Commission’s proposed Health Research Programme 2014-2015 (part of Horizon2020). The leak raised questions regarding the preparation of this draft, given its failure to address the major personal, social, environmental and occupational risk factors of disease in favour of narrow research parameters focusing on biotechnology and personalised medicine. In a joint open letter, EPHA voiced concern that this research programme fails to adequately address health inequalities, overlooking the fact that the current epidemic of non-communicable diseases in Europe is caused by factors such as poverty, the environment, inequality, poor diets, lack of exercise, tobacco and alcohol abuse.
This month EPHA launched two papers. As the Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) issued a consultation on its 2012 Annual Report and 2013 Strategic Objectives, we published our position paper, in which we proposed several recommendations to better promote social protection and public health rights.
More recently, coinciding with the United Nations’ World Food Day (October 16), and after contributing to the European Commission’s consultation on a Sustainable Food System, EPHA launched a position paper on sustainable food systems to add to the ongoing debate among civil society, policy-makers and other stakeholders.
In the framework of EPHA’s 20th anniversary, this month we launched the ‘EPHA Guide: The EU and Health’: a handbook to ease the reader’s journey into the EU’s competences on public health, its legislative basis, actors, policies, funding and key upcoming developments. This guide is designed to equip the reader with two strong skills: the ability to understand the role of the EU in shaping public health across the continent; and the capacity to identify the various areas in which Brussels works to advance everyone’s well-being.
Last by not least, I would like to inform you of two exciting developments that will take place in November. EPHA will be launching its manifesto towards the European Parliament elections on May 2014. In this statement, we encourage political parties and individual Members of the European Parliament (MEP) candidates to use next year’s vote as an opportunity to take decisive steps to promote well-being and better health in Europe. Furthermore, EPHA member the European COPD Coalition is co-organising an event on November 28th in Brussels on the theme ‘What role for diseases and patients in shaping the Horizon 2020? A case study of patient involvement”. We are looking forward to seeing see you there.
Monika Kosińska, EPHA Secretary General
Other highlights from previous weeks
EPHA members can find the following new information in the members-only section: