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MEPs tighten anti-tobacco laws aimed at young smokers

BBC News asked a doctor and the owner of an e-cigarette shop in Paris for their views on the new law


Euro MPs have voted to tighten tobacco regulations aimed at putting young people off smoking, but some measures do not go as far as originally planned.

They rejected a European Commission proposal to treat electronic cigarettes as medicinal products – a move that would have restricted sales.

They backed a ban on cigarette flavourings – but with a five-year delay in the case of menthol.

Slim cigarettes will not be banned. EU ministers must now consider the plans.

Among other measures, MEPs voted on Tuesday to put health warnings on 65% of each cigarette pack, as opposed to the proposed 75%.

Linda McAvan, the Labour MEP steering the legislation, said 65% was still “a long way towards plain packaging”.

The current requirement for health warnings is for 30% minimum coverage on one side and 40% on the other.


Duncan CrawfordBBC News, Strasbourg

MEPs spent hours debating these proposals. One said: “Smoking kills, it’s that simple”, arguing for the tougher regulations. But some questioned whether the proposals would significantly reduce smoking rates. Others were concerned about job losses.

In the end this was a mixed result for health campaigners. No ban on slim cigarettes, a delayed ban for menthol, health warnings to cover 65% of the packet – as opposed to the 75% proposed.

On e-cigarettes, proposals to regulate them as medicines EU-wide were rejected. That might pose complications for the UK Government; the regulator there has already backed the tougher regulations. Before the vote, EU officials had complained loudly about tobacco lobbyists trying to get MEPs to water down the plans and, from today’s evidence, it appears they were successful.

Still, this isn’t the end game for the legislation. There will now be negotiations between the European Parliament and the EU member states to decide on the final laws.

Packs of 10 cigarettes, considered popular among younger smokers, will also be banned.

Fourteen EU states already have 20 as the minimum, four stipulate a minimum of 19, and in the UK and Italy the minimum is 10.

Smaller than normal packs of roll-your-own tobacco will still be allowed under the new rules.

It was the European Parliament’s first reading of a draft tobacco directive which could become law in 2014. It would then take two more years to become law in each of the 28 EU member states.

There has been intense lobbying of MEPs by the tobacco industry and health campaigners.

Conservative and Liberal MEPs welcomed the amendments made to the original proposal from Labour’s Linda McAvan.

Speaking to the BBC, Ms McAvan said she was disappointed that slim cigarettes were not banned.

But cigarette packaging made to look like lipstick or perfume containers – attractive to girls – will disappear, she noted.

There will now be further negotiations with the Council – the grouping of relevant EU ministers. MEPs may manage to avoid a second vote and fast-track the legislation so that it is adopted before the May 2014 European elections.

The proposals also include a ban on words like “light”, “mild” and “low tar”, deemed to be misleading, and a ban on oral tobacco – called snus – although Sweden would retain its exemption.

EU Health Commissioner Tonio Borg called the vote “positive”. “I am confident that the revised Directive on Tobacco Products can still be adopted within the mandate of the current Parliament,” he said.

But Carl Schlyter MEP, health spokesman for the Greens, called it “a shameful day for the European Parliament, as a centre-right majority, led by the EPP group, has done the bidding of the tobacco industry and voted for weaker rules”.

E-cigarette controversy

The UK has already said e-cigarettes will be licensed as medicine from 2016.

Sales of the tobacco-free devices have boomed worldwide since bans on smoking in public places were introduced.

E-cigarette (June 2013)
E-cigarettes run on a rechargeable battery and turn nicotine and other chemicals into an inhalable vapour.

But campaigners say their growing popularity is dangerous.

They argue that e-cigarettes undermine years of anti-smoking efforts and could be especially damaging to children and non-smokers.

The devices are designed to replicate smoking behaviour without the use of tobacco. They turn nicotine and other chemicals into a vapour that is inhaled.

Manufacturers of e-cigarettes say the products have the potential to save millions of lives.

Anti-smoking campaigners say young people especially are being tricked into taking up smoking.

“Tobacco products should look and taste like tobacco products,” saidCommissioner Borg, presenting the proposals.

The legislation would allow member states the option of plain, non-branded packaging “in duly justified cases”.

The Commission says almost 700,000 Europeans die from smoking-related illnesses each year – equal to the population of Frankfurt or Palermo. The costs for healthcare in the EU are estimated to be at least 25.3bn euros (£20.6bn; $33.4bn) annually.

In 2009‐10, sales of tobacco products generated nearly £9bn ($14.6bn; 11bn euros) in taxes for the UK government, about 2% of all receipts from taxation, a government report said.

via BBC News – MEPs tighten anti-tobacco laws aimed at young smokers.

Lobbyists puff and blow over new EU tobacco rules

Olivier Hoedeman criticises the tobacco industry’s lobbying tactics in Brussels


Olivier Hoedeman takes people on unusual tours of Brussels – he opens their eyes to the billions of euros that multinationals, unions and campaign groups spend trying to shape – even rewrite – the European laws made there.

The research and campaign coordinator of Corporate Europe Observatory – which monitors lobbying – pauses outside a smart office block, a few streets away from the European Parliament.

He points to the second floor and the offices of British American Tobacco. It has seven full-time lobbyists here and Mr Hoedeman says the tobacco industry as a whole employs around 100 in Brussels, spending more than 5m euros (£4.3m; $6.6m) a year.

Those numbers have grown as the industry fights proposed new regulation.

The European Commission is beefing up the Tobacco Products Directive, to try to dissuade young people from smoking.

So, for example, there would be a ban on menthol cigarettes and some other flavourings and bigger pictorial health warnings on packets.

Lobbying battlefield

Tobacco firms “directly lobby MEPs, trying to meet with him or her to talk them into tabling amendments, but also [organise] social events, like dinner parties for MEPs’ assistants,” Mr Hoedeman says.

“We have already seen in several of the votes of committees of parliament that the Commission’s proposals are being weakened. It shows they’re gaining ground and achieving that goal.”

Linda McAvan MEP

Why don’t they just operate like every other company that lobbies the European Parliament? ”

Linda McAvanMEP

The lobbying appears to be having an impact. Almost 1,500 amendments to the tobacco directive have been tabled.

The EU’s health ministers, for example, voted to drop a ban on slim cigarettes, and reduce the size of the graphic health warnings, from the 75% the European Commission wanted, to 65%.

But last week the parliament’s public health committee voted to keep that ban, as well as a ban on cigarette flavourings, and backed the 75% target. So more hard bargaining lies ahead, and the full parliament will vote on 10 September.

The EU has an online database of lobbyists called the Transparency Register. But it does not tell the whole story: the register is voluntary and hundreds of lobbyists simply choose not to reveal themselves. There is no information about whom they have lobbied.

Special rules are supposed to apply to the tobacco industry. The EU has signed up to a World Health Organization treaty which says politicians should avoid meeting tobacco companies; if they must, the meeting has to be transparent.

But the British MEP piloting the tobacco legislation through parliament, Linda McAvan, says that away from the main lobbying battlefield the tobacco companies have been firing salvoes below the radar.

She accuses one of ringing her constituency office, posing as a representative of small retailers to demand an urgent meeting.

‘Legal company’

EU Commissioner Tonio Borg with cigarette pack, 19 Dec 12
Tonio Borg from Malta is now negotiating for the EU Commission on the revised directive

Other tobacco lobbyists, she said, have been handing out anonymous amendments to MEPs, in the hope they will be put forward.

“If they think it’s legitimate, why are doing it like that? Why don’t they just operate like every other company that lobbies the European Parliament and just send it out in a normal email? I think they know that if people know they’re from the tobacco industry, they’ll be suspicious of the arguments they make,” said Ms McAvan.

Ronan Barry describes himself as a corporate affairs professional for British American Tobacco and heads their Brussels lobbying operation, which cost nearly 1m euros to run last year.

He says his company is always open and honest, and he does not recognise the tactics described by the MEP.

He believes tobacco companies have as much right to meet MEPs as any other business and says the scale of the tobacco lobby is often exaggerated.

“We sell a legal product and are a legal company and therefore have a role to play in communicating our point of view to people who make decisions that impact upon us.

There are certainly at least as many lobbyists arguing against our positions as there are arguing for them, so it’s not true to say there are armies of us here lobbying,” said Mr Barry.

A British Conservative MEP, Martin Callanan, echoed that view. “This idea they put across that it’s a sort of David and Goliath – these industrial giants with thousands of well-paid, suited lobbyists and only one or two little NGOs representing the oppressed common man is very, very far from the truth – it’s the other way round if anything.”

On average, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Brussels get 43% of their funding from EU institutions.

‘Billions of euros’

In the past year the lobbying debate on both sides has been overshadowed by a scandal involving the former commissioner who was supposed to be driving the tobacco directive, John Dalli.

At the centre of so-called “Dalligate” is an allegation that a friend of Mr Dalli asked for 60m euros to overturn a ban on snus – a moist chewing tobacco which you put under your lip.

Mr Dalli and his friend both strenuously deny the allegation.

An investigation by Europe’s anti-fraud office Olaf says that although it has circumstantial evidence linking Mr Dalli to the bribe request, that evidence is not conclusive.

Speaking from his home in Malta, Mr Dalli claims he is the victim of a conspiracy: “I was considered as a person who was very hard on the tobacco industry and they didn’t want that during their campaign.

“I’m already hearing about a lot of dilution that is being made to the directive because of the tobacco lobbies that have been very active.

“I’m afraid that what’s going to go through, if it goes through, is not as effective as one would like and what is the gain? The gain is billions of euros.”

via BBC News – Lobbyists puff and blow over new EU tobacco rules.

Ban tobacco advertising to protect young people

29 MAY 2013 | GENEVA – On World No Tobacco Day, 31 May, WHO is calling for countries to ban all forms of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship to help reduce the number of tobacco users. Tobacco use kills nearly 6 million people every year.

“Governments must make it their top priority to stop the tobacco industry’s shameless manipulation of young people and women, in particular, to recruit the next generation of nicotine addicts.”

Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General

Bans on tobacco advertising are effective

Bans on advertising, promotion and sponsorship are one of the most effective ways to reduce tobacco consumption, with countries that have already introduced bans showing an average of 7% reduction in tobacco consumption.

Research shows about one third of youth experimentation with tobacco occurs as a result of exposure to tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship. Worldwide, 78% of young people aged 13-15 years report regular exposure to some form of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.

“Tobacco use ranks right at the very top of the list of universal threats to health yet is entirely preventable,” says WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan. “Governments must make it their top priority to stop the tobacco industry’s shameless manipulation of young people and women, in particular, to recruit the next generation of nicotine addicts.”

“Most tobacco users start their deadly drug dependence before the age 20”, says Dr Douglas Bettcher, Director of WHO’s Prevention of Noncommunicable Diseases department. “Banning tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship is one of the best ways to protect young people from starting smoking as well as reducing tobacco consumption across the entire population.”

Dr Bettcher warns however that, even when bans are in place, the tobacco industry is constantly finding new tactics to target potential smokers including:

  • handing out gifts and selling branded products such as clothing, in particular targeting young people;
  • “stealth” marketing such as engaging trendsetters to influence people in places such as cafes and nightclubs;
  • using online and new media, such as pro-smoking smartphone applications and online discussions led by tobacco company staff posing as consumers;
  • placement of tobacco products and brands in films and television, including reality TV and soap operas; and
  • corporate social responsibility activities such as making donations to charities.

“That is why the ban has to be complete in order to be fully effective,” he added.

Countries and banning tobacco advertising

WHO’s report on the global tobacco epidemic 2011 shows that only 19 countries (representing just 6% of the world’s population) have reached the highest level of achievement in banning tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship. More than one third of countries have minimal or no restrictions at all.

Countries that are making strong progress in banning the last remaining forms of advertising include Albania, Brazil, Colombia, Ghana, Iran, Mauritius, Panama and Vietnam.

WHO supports countries to meet their obligations under the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), which requires Parties to introduce a comprehensive ban of all forms of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship within five years of the entry into force of the WHO FCTC for that Party.

According to the “2012 Global Progress Report on Implementation of the WHO FCTC”, 83 countries have already reported that they have introduced a comprehensive ban of all tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.

Countries that have banned displays of tobacco products at points of sale include Australia, Canada, Finland, Ireland, Nepal, New Zealand, Norway, Palau and Panama, with Australia also introducing plain packaging of tobacco products.

A recent survey on tobacco use in Turkey shows the ban on advertising, promotion and sponsorship, combined with other tobacco-control measures, has contributed to cutting tobacco use by more than 13% – translating to 1.2 million fewer tobacco users – since 2008.

Tobacco kills millions

Tobacco kills up to half its users. By 2030, WHO estimates that tobacco will kill more than 8 million people every year, with four out of five of these deaths occurring in low and middle-income countries. Tobacco is a major risk factor for noncommunicable diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases.

First global treaty for health

The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control is the first international treaty negotiated under the auspices of WHO and demonstrates the world’s commitment to decisive action to reduce tobacco use, the leading preventable cause of death. The Treaty was adopted in 2003 and now has 176 Parties, covering 88% of the world’s population.



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