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SFP welcomes the release of the Tobacco Products Directive proposal

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

Brussels - The publication of the Tobacco Products Directive proposal is welcome, but its provisions can be improved. The Smoke Free Partnership calls on Members of the European Parliament and on EU governments to strengthen its provisions and to adopt a final act by mid-2014.

BRUSSELS, 19 December 2012 – The Smoke Free Partnership (SFP) welcomes that the European Commission has today adopted the proposal for a new EU Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) and that Commissioner Borg fulfilled his commitment to deliver a legislative proposal by the end of 2012.

SFP welcomes the introduction of mandatory pictorial warnings on cigarettes and roll-your-own tobacco. Evidence shows that measures such as large graphic warnings are effective in reducing the appeal of tobacco products particularly to women and young people.[1] The 2012 Eurobarometer on tobacco shows that 76% of EU citizens support this measure.[2] The Commission’s proposal to cover 75% of the main surfaces of packs is similar to provisions in Canada, Uruguay and Australia. We look forward to the implementation of these measures in Europe once the Directive enters into force (at the earliest in 2016). We are, however, very disappointed that standardised/plain packaging for tobacco products has not been made mandatory.

SFP also welcomes the ban on characterising flavours in cigarettes, roll-your-own tobacco and smokeless tobacco. This includes menthol which would make the EU second in the world after Brazil to introduce this measure. However, we note the lack of clarity on how the “characterising” nature of flavours would be established. A full ban on all flavours in all tobacco products (meaning on all ingredients and additives that may be used to increase attractiveness, such as sugars and sweeteners, flavouring substances, and spices and herbs) would provide more clarity and facilitate implementation. We hope that the European Parliament and the Council will extend these bans to all flavourings and to all tobacco products.

SFP applauds the proposed ban on slims and superslims cigarettes. This makes the EU the first in the world to propose this measure.

Finally, SFP welcomes the introduction of tracking and tracing features on tobacco packages. However, we have concerns about the level of control by the tobacco industry over the data gathering and data keeping process. SFP emphasises that tracking and tracing features should be in line with the provisions of the newly-adopted International Protocol on Illicit Trade in tobacco Products[3], which clearly specifies that tracking and tracing to the tobacco industry should be avoided.

The main concerns of SFP are mostly related to the legislative process. The events that occurred during the Commission's preparatory work cannot be separated from the content of the proposal put forward by the College of Commissioners (see section below for more details). The repeated delays and controversy surrounding this file suggest that interference by opponents of the proposal was widespread.

Florence Berteletti Kemp, Director of the SFP, said: “Today’s proposal, although going in the right direction, does little to alleviate our concerns about the transparency of the preparatory process. The Directive is still vulnerable to delays and attempts to weaken its provisions by the tobacco industry and its allies. We urge Members of the European Parliament and Health Ministers in all EU Member States to work together to adopt a strong and effective Directive before the end of the current mandate. Although this will be difficult given the short time until the end of this legislature, we hope that the strong political will that has been building up to achieve a better standard of protection for EU citizens will prevail.”

SFP has documented tobacco industry lobbying tactics during the adoption of the 2001 TPD[4] and recent reports have revealed massive interference and disregard for the obligations under the Framework Convention to protect public health policies from the vested interests of the tobacco industry throughout the preparatory process for the review.[5] Florence Berteletti Kemp added: Members of the European Parliament and Member State ministers are likely to face attempts by the tobacco industry to further block, weaken and delay this important legislation. We recall that there is a fundamental and irreconcilable conflict between the tobacco industry’s interests and public health policy interests. That is why we urge all European policy-makers to give due consideration to the principle of transparency if and when discussing this dossier with representatives of the tobacco industry and its allies.

Overall, the proposed TPD advances the EU’s obligations under the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control[6]. However, it risks falling short from achieving the gold standard in evidence based tobacco control policies. In this context, it is crucial that Member States, all of which have ratified the FCTC, should be free under this directive to ‘go further’ in every policy area, especially in seeking to fulfil FCTC obligations. Otherwise, not only EU countries but the entire WHO EURO region may be disadvantaged compared to other parts of the world.

[1] http://www.smokefreepartnership.eu/news/spotlight-8-labelling-and-packaging-tobacco-products

[2] http://ec.europa.eu/health/tobacco/docs/eurobaro_attitudes_towards_tobacco_2012_en.pdf

[3] http://apps.who.int/gb/fctc/PDF/cop5/FCTC_COP5%281%29-en.pdf

[4] http://www.smokefreepartnership.eu/news/block-amend-delay-tobacco-industry-efforts-influence-european-union%E2%80%99s-tobacco-products

[5] http://corporateeurope.org/news/commission-shabby-implementation-un-rules-tobacco-lobbying

[6] http://whqlibdoc.who.int/publications/2003/9241591013.pdf

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The Smoke Free Partnership receives project funding from the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease under the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use.
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