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EPHA: Mixed victory for tobacco control in EP vote

The European Public Health and Tobacco Control Community welcomed the EP’s October plenary vote to start negotiations with the Council to agree on the latest Tobacco Products Directive (TPD). Although the text adopted in plenary is not perfect, it does maintain a high level of protection of Public Health in some areas and enhances EU tobacco control compared to the existing legislation.

The Parliament plenary voted in favor of:

  • mandatory pictorial warnings covering 65% of both sides and top of any cigarette pack,
  • the restriction of characterizing flavours without exception (with a temporary derogation for menthol),
  • strong tracking and traceability of provisions for tobacco products across the entire supply chain as well as strong regulation of novel tobacco products.

While the EP rejected the ban on slim cigarettes, it maintained restrictions on other misleading features of tobacco products. It was reminded that Member states have the possibility to adopt more stringent measures as appropriate to regulate tobacco products, such as plain packaging. In addition to this, the EP adopted a negotiation mandate allowing the start of negotiations with the Council and the EU Commission in order to reach a compromise before the European elections to be held in May 2014 (EP Rapporteur will be Linda McAvan).

Following strong lobbying by the tobacco industry, the plenary vote on the TPD was delayed by a month last September. This resulted in 35 additional amendments to the 70 already made, most of which aimed at further weakening the Directive. This could be interpreted as a victory of the tobacco industry.

Information emerged recently from internal industry documents about the tactics and arguments used by the tobacco industry and its allies to influence the positions of MEPs or to delay the legislative process. The vote on 8 October shows increased MEP’s awareness of tobacco industry tactics. The Public Health community has recently sent a letter to the EP president Martin Schultz calling for an end to the delay tactics and for greater transparency in the interactions with the tobacco industry.

Originally posted on 27 November 2013

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