Brussels, 31 May 2014 – To mark World No Tobacco Day on 31 May (1), the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) calls on European Union (EU) Member States to fully implement the revised Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) (2). The new directive, which was adopted earlier this year, entered into force on 19 May and, among other measures, allows EU Member States to introduce standardised tobacco packaging on the grounds of public health.
"Europe is now equipped with a regulation that is fit for purpose and has the potential to protect us from misleading marketing. The tobacco industry has long targeted young people in the promotion of their products. The EU Products Directive will provide Europe with an opportunity to curb these promotional activities through plain packaging and to stop young boys and girls starting the smoking habit. With such a powerful new weapon to fight against tobacco use, this move will enable us to reduce the chronic disease burden caused by smoking," said Peggy Maguire, EPHA President.
“On World No Tobacco Day I would like to celebrate Europe’s bold commitment to put more stringent controls a product that kills around 700,000 people every year in Europe. I hope that this Directive will pave the way for more Member States to legislate for standardised packaging,” added Emma Woodford, EPHA Interim Secretary General.
Although the transposition of the TPD is crucial, it should not mean the end of the road for tobacco control - there are additional ways that national governments can fight the tobacco epidemic. The theme of this year’s World No Tobacco Day is raising tobacco taxation. This is a key element to cutting consumption, stemming take-up and helping people give up; it also promises to reduce health inequalities. EPHA is pleased that the World Health Organization (WHO) and its partners are using the opportunity presented by World No Tobacco Day 2014 to call on countries to raise taxes on tobacco.
In the run up to World No Tobacco day, the WHO commended key actors (3) for their efforts to tackle the tobacco epidemic in Europe, including Tonio Borg, the European Commissioner for Health; James Reilly, Ireland’s Minister of Health; and Vytenis Povilas Andriukaitis, Lithuania’s Minister of Health.
When Mr Borg was appointed Commissioner for Health and Consumer Affairs, he ensured that the Commission released (4) the revision of the TPD on time for the European Parliament (EP) and the Council to adopt the new directive before the end of the EP’s legislative term. Throughout a legislative process marked by heavy tobacco lobby influence, Mr Borg encouraged the EU chamber and the Council to agree on a strong directive focusing on the protection of children from tobacco marketing. We would also like to stress that the final compromise would not have been possible without the continuous and tireless support of the rapporteur Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Linda McAvan.
Ireland’s Minister of Health also played a crucial role (5) in the TPD adoption process and was instrumental in putting forward a proposal on plain packaging in Ireland (6), which provided a best practice example for other EU Member States to follow.
True to his word, the Lithuanian Ministry of Health made the renewal of the TPD a top priority of the Lithuanian Presidency of the European Council (7) (second semester of 2013), following his supportive speech at EPHA’s Annual Conference last year (8).
Today EPHA has also published a briefing on the on-line marketing of tobacco products (9). "The virtual environment is the most common cross-border platform for tobacco advertising and the biggest challenge for the effective implementation of an EU advertising ban," stressed the author of the briefing, Zoltán Massay-Kosubek, Policy Coordinator at EPHA.
Close to 13 million people suffer from smoking-related diseases in the EU, such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) (10). This has devastating effects not only on societies and healthcare systems, but also economically.
(1) The theme of World No Tobacco Day 2014 is ‘raise tobacco tax: lower death and disease’
(2) Directive 2014/40/EC on the approximation of the laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the Member States. The new TPD Directive entered into force on 19 May 2014. EU Member States have now two years to implement it. According to Article 24.2: “This Directive shall not affect the right of a Member State to maintain or introduce further requirements, applicable to all products placed on its market, in relation to the standardisation of the packaging of tobacco products, where it is justified on grounds of public health, taking into account the high level of protection of human health achieved through this directive.”
(5) [Joint press release] EU Presidencies’ statement shows firm leadership and commitment on tobacco.
(8) [Conference report] EPHA 4th Annual Conference (4 & 5 September 2013)
(9) [EPHA briefing] On-line marketing of tobacco products.
(10) Smoking is the main risk factor for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), a common lung disease that obstructs the airways, making breathing difficult. COPD affects more than 440,000 people in Ireland alone (data from the Irish Thoracic Society).
Javier Delgado Rivera, EPHA Communications Coordinator at email@example.com or 32 (0) 2 233 38 876