Years of careful preparation, months of intense lobbying and days of political drama are culminating in a crucial vote on tobacco products in the European Parliament in a couple of weeks.
Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) will vote on 8th October on a revised EU Tobacco Products Directive at a crunch point in the law-making process.
But will they support stronger measures to protect young people from the deadly effects of tobacco or succumb to unrelenting industry pressure?
We look at why this vote is so important to public health and why MEPs must not allow the tobacco industry to use its well-worn tactics to delay this life-saving legislation.
What is the EU Tobacco Products Directive?
It’s been over a decade since European politicians first got together to lay down a series of landmark EU-wide rules on the manufacture and sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products.
The result – the Tobacco Products Directive – was passed in 2001 to regulate the tobacco industry across Europe. Many of the regulations that seemed far-reaching at the turn of the century are today accepted as eminently sensible and essential public health measures. For example, it requires all cigarette packets to display health warnings and has banned the misleading terms “mild” and “light”.
In the past decade, tobacco companies have become adept at exploiting gaps and loopholes in the regulations. To enhance the appeal of their products and attract customers, they have used numerous marketing innovations, for example, flavoured ‘click’ cigarettes or claims of vitalising or organic properties.
That’s why the Directive is now being updated – to ensure a higher standard of health protection through stronger measures aimed at discouraging young people from starting to smoke and encouraging smokers to quit.
The EU Directive matters because it sets the legal framework for many tobacco control policies here in the UK.
What’s being proposed?
The proposals include:
- larger health warnings on the front and back of tobacco packaging;
- graphic (picture) warnings, as have already been introduced in the UK;
- information on how to stop smoking on all tobacco packs;
- standard shaped cigarette packs to stop innovative packs, for example, lipstick or perfume shaped packs – designed to make smoking look glamorous;
- a ban on flavoured cigarettes, which mask the taste of tobacco and particularly appeal to young people, as well as elegant-looking slim cigarettes;
- rules for herbal cigarettes and new nicotine-containing products such as electronic cigarettes.
These measures are part of a suite of tobacco control policies that need to be in place at local, national and international levels to combat the individual and global effects of lethal addiction. They complement our campaign for standardised packaging of tobacco, which has already been introduced in Australia and as announced to go ahead in Ireland and Scotland.
We continue to urge the UK government to act.
Meanwhile, the EU proposals have advanced far following several years of consultation, but to become law they have to be agreed by the national governments of the 28 member countries of the EU as well as the European Parliament. In June the Health Ministers of all the EU countries met to agree a preliminary position.
Now the ball is firmly in the court of the European Parliament to signal their position. But there are already signs that some MEPs are buckling under the pressure of tobacco industry lobbying.
In fact, MEPs were meant to vote earlier in September, but in a dramatic turn, political manoeuvring by MEPs who are sticking up for tobacco industry concerns forced the vote to be delayed to October.
The longer the delay, the less likely there is to be agreement before European elections next year. If MEPs dither now, they risk significant delay and more years for tobacco companies to promote their toxic products through innovative flavours and pack designs.
Tobacco industry tactics
We’re in familiar and frustrating territory – the well-established tactics of the tobacco industry are once again being deployed to delay and derail the proposals. An army of industry lobbyists and their front groups have descended on Brussels to spread myths and misinformation.
Once again, we hear diversionary and unfounded arguments that changes to pack shape and design will lead to increases in illicit trade and counterfeit cigarettes when in fact the Directive will strengthen measures against illicit trade and fakes.
Job losses in tobacco farming and production are also cited without any regard to the massive economic rewards that come from reducing levels of smoking, not to mention the huge human and economic costs of cancer and other debilitating diseases.
Public healthcare spending on treating smoking-related diseases is estimated to be over £21 billion per year across the EU, of which over £7 billion is related to cancers.
And every cigarette smokes costs the UK 6.5p when taking into account all economic and societal costs.
The fight for public health is on
Thankfully, many MEPs can see through these tactics and refuse to water down the Directive. The fight is on for public health. MEPs have a clear opportunity to pass measures to reduce the appeal of smoking to young people – those most likely to start the habit. Across Europe, around 70 per cent of the smokers start before the age of 18 and 94 per cent before the age of 25.
And you can help – we’re asking our supporters to join the fight and contact their MEPs.
In the meantime, we’re working with European tobacco control colleagues at the Smoke Free Partnership and European Public Health Alliance to seek support from MEPs for a strong Directive in the interests of health.
Come October 8th, we hope these efforts will be rewarded with a vote for common sense – to take forward this long-awaited and much-needed legislation. This vote will not be the end of the process, but it will mean the new law can be given a final stamp of approval before citizens across the EU elect their MEPs in May next year.
Andrew Hollingsworth, Public Affairs Manager
Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
RobbieW October 20, 2013
good blog here examining the situation of cancer charities causing cancer.
RobbieW October 16, 2013
Good summary of possible futures for e-cigs
So far CRUK policy has been very unhelpful, is there anyone within CRUK who has the vision to grasp this potential massive health prize?
CRUK are through their views supporting tobacco in its efforts to remain the main source of nicotine on the market.
Remember, if democracy fails completely and e-cigs are medicalised, then ALL EXISTING PRODUCTS will be banned.
Stop & think, do the right thing
Alan Beard October 13, 2013
Far better and more detailed link to the Times post I reported above is shown in the same authors blog here http://t.co/j7hBtDMvwB. Very interesting comments concerning Pharma lobbying and involvement at the end as a footnote.
Overall sums up the situation v.well
Dragonmum October 12, 2013
Totally agree. It’s a small window of opportunity which would allow CRUK and others to retain some degree of credibility but, sadly, I fear that pressure from those who provide a lot of funding preclude that possibility. Money talks!
Alan Beard October 12, 2013
This article in the Times(paywall unfortunately) nicely puts forward the case for exercising caution in relation to medicinal regulation http://t.co/2AX7wY0xv9 as usual the comments contained are of interest .
Within a very short period of time there will be a trialogue where the Parliament reps , Council of Ministers, Commission all need to agree on where the contentious issues in the TPD need to be agreed upon .
The issue that will cause most angst is the Q of e-cigarettes even at this very late stage CR UK could signal a change in its position . The Parliamentary compromise amendment #170 adopted contains all of the necessary safeguards that CR UK were advocating previously , this is a position they could default to AND signal to the Health Minister this is their new position .
Inaction at this stage will not be greeted with much goodwill towards CR UK in the coming months or years . Already many previous supporters have indicated this I ask again can you modify your position ?
RobbieW October 7, 2013
Still silent on the issue CRUK?.
You have less than 24hrs to make a difference, stop this insane policy that puts profit before lives.
Do the right thing
Gordon Beard October 4, 2013
Unless events show a rapid change over the next few days it looks like there may be a majority vote for amendment 170 which appears to have broad support amongst MEP. Amend 170 would preserve some of the aspects of vaping that users want, crucially it would mean that in the UK (although probs in other member states) we would still have e-cigs available.
Naturally even if plenary votes in favour that is far from the end of the process
Amongst the many other (but associated) events that have recently happened is this study http://t.co/RB9v0RkFsV just published today , and the French anti smoking org OFT joining forces with the French Consumers Association (AIDUCE) to oppose medicinal regulation .
It now needs CRUK and ASH to start to revisit their policies and try to embrace fully the e-cig and not view this at all with suspicion and caution.
RobbieW October 2, 2013
Well it looks like there may be a hope to save lives after all, the largest political group in the European Parliament, the EPP have indicated they will be supporting an amendment that DOES NOT medicalise e-cigs.
It is not ideal and has some restrictions but if passed it means that I and many others will not be forced back to tobacco.
The link is here ( if you open in chrome it translates ) http://www.lokalkompass.de/menden/leute/e-zigarette-kompromiss-am-8-oktober-d349809.html
CRUK, this could be the “out” you should have been looking for, if the TPD does not medicalise e-cigs then the MRHA proposals will be thrown out in court as has happened in every similar court case. You still have a chance to make a difference, you could even at this late stage review your policy and call on all MEP’s to oppose medicalisation at the TPD vote.
Do the right thing
Ethelking October 2, 2013
As expressed by others, I cannot see any logical reason for you not to support the development and use of electronic cigarettes. These devices will save lives. If they are allowed to survive in their current form. To this end, I will also be cancelling my financial support of your organisation. I have supported you on a monthly basis for over ten years; if you cannot apply common sense, I can not provide my hard earned money.
stephen willdig October 2, 2013
Do one decent thing in your life and recomend to MPs/MEPs to remove E cigarettes from the TPD, then you can take your battle to the tobacco industry, but leave us alone.
Millions of vapours WILL REMEMBER
RobbieW October 2, 2013
In 2008 CRUK were very anti medicalisation of e-cigs and the reasons they outlined mirrored many of the comments on this blog.
There are only a few reasons why such a policy change would be intiated by CRUK;
1. New research shows that e-cigs are nearly as dangerous as tobacco
2. pressure from Big tobacco companies who are likley to inherit the e-cig industry from smaller companies
3. Pressure from Pharmacutical companies to protect theoir profits from NRT and cancer treatments.
Reasons 1 & 2 seem somewhat unlikley and as CRUK refuse to provide an alternative good reason point 3 seems to be the only explanation left.
Why are CRUK supporting a policy that could kill millions simply to protect their paymasters profits?.
Remember this fact, if CRUK get their way – ALL EXISTING PRODUCTS WILL BE BANNED.
Stop & think, do the right thing.
mawsley October 2, 2013
It beggars belief that anyone pro-porting to campaign for a reduction in cancer-causing activities would support a directive imposing a ban on vaping…which is probably the greatest thing to happen in order to encourage smokers to give up cigarettes.
Bans don’t work, packet designs don’t work, price controls don’t work – giving people a healthier, enjoyable, far safer option option has and will.
I vape using mech mods, rebuildable atomisers and DIY juices sourced from pharmaceutical grade suppliers. It is my free choice to do so and the research clearly demonstrates that the danger is negligible.
Cliff October 1, 2013
It would be nice to see some responce from Cancer Research on these replies .
Dragonmum October 1, 2013
This is truly bizarre – do you have a glitch?
Dragonmum October 1, 2013
And it’s gone again – make up your minds CRUK- no swearing in mine either Gordon Beard – CRUK is getting like a virgin on the verge! Maybe overworked bombarding MEPs on Twitter?
Gordon Beard October 1, 2013
2 civil – zero swearing comments posted by myself yesterday -still awaiting moderation ?
I really do hope that censorship of genuine comments is not in force here
Dragonmum October 1, 2013
It’s back – sorry CRUK
Dragonmum October 1, 2013
Wow! My last comment must have been up there all of 3 minutes – hope someone had time to read it, must have struck a very sensitive spot. And not a swear-word in it.
Will stick it on fb instead.
Dragonmum October 1, 2013
I visualise CRUK and a lot of other charities walking around, fingers in ears, going ” la-la-la-la – can’t hear you”.Yes, they can; they know that what has been posted here is the truth. We, the vapers who have been willing lab-rats for years, SMEs who have pioneered the emergence of the first viable alternative to the tobacco cigarette ever, we have all been shouting it from the roof-tops. The Pharmaceuticals had access to the technology at the same time as Small Enterprises but, without more Government funding were unwilling to take it on. Now that the spade-work has been done they want to snatch it under their umbrella and emasculate it to a point where it would be no more effective than the failed NRTs.
To some, everything is about money; human life and well-being appears to come a very poor second. It’s time digits were extracted from earholes, because the next time someone comes rattling a tin, I, for one, will be very careful to examine what it says on that tin.
Vapers will win – we can’t afford to lose and we have very long memories.
Mike October 1, 2013
This stinks more than the propaganda ads you’ve made using donation money given to you in good faith to fund cancer research, my blood was boiling when I saw you using children to read the scripts given to them saying things like “I like this one because it’s pink” and “I like the pictures!” etcetera.
I didn’t start smoking because I thought it looked cool, or because of the shape/colour of a cigarette packet, or because it had a picture of someone with throat cancer on it, I knew fully well that they caused death and disease too. I started smoking through experimentation, because it was easy to steal the odd cigarette from my parents packet, also because cigarettes were so cheap and it was easy to fool the staff at the petrol station that I looked 16 at the time. I also experimented with weed, LSD, magic mushrooms in my youth too and none of them came in a shiny packet or had “nice” scary pictures on them either.
You have it totally wrong why you “never smokers/anti tobacco campaigners” say smokers start, the gateway arguments etcetera. Rather than dream up excuses of why you think children and adults start smoking tobacco, your kind should research why smokers really start.
The only real way to get people off of tobacco is to continue to price it out of their and their kids range while keeping inventions like e-cigs that work to replace the habit to a much safer one.
An average e-cig starter kit costs around £30, through self regulation the suppliers said 18+, they use child safe bottle caps, chip compliance and pharma grade ingredients, existing trading standards laws ensure they provide good quality products, education of good safety practices when charging batteries, for example not leaving them unattended, in the sun, how to clean the contacts go a long way to ensure minimum venting incidents occur too.
Dodderer October 1, 2013
Figures released last week show that smoking prevalence has only fallen by 1% since 2007.This TPD estimates an equivalent reduction of 0.6% over five years.
All the sticks have been tried and have failed.Is it beyond the realm of human intelligence to try the carrot?
Flintstone October 1, 2013
Excuse me Andrew, what about the elephant in the room???
E-cigarettes have the potential to save millions of lives in the fight against cancer. But you want to see them banned through this TPD?
Why on earth would you totally ignore this? Inconvenient truth perhaps?
Shame on you CRUK!
Jon Holland September 30, 2013
The TPD is a joke, tobacco products readily available & with very little restriction. Want a much safer alternative like Snus or ecigarettes then hard luck ones banned & the others going to be regulated out of existence. The costs of getting an MA are prohibitive as many vendors who have inquired about the costs from the MHRA have found. I can only assume CRUK wants lots of cancer patients to study as they don’t seem to have any interest in harm reduction.
Dragonmum October 1, 2013
That doesn’t seem far off the mark actually. Since they all seem to claim that every disease known to man is caused by tobacco then if e-cigs take over the market what happens to the jobs of doctors, health workers researchers etc? Much more important though, what happens to all the profits made by the Pharmaceuticals when no-one needs their over-priced drugs or their 95% useless NRT therapies?
Gordon Beard September 30, 2013
@Dragonmum too true , why the MP/MEP need to include it in the TPD is baffling . Clive Bates @clivebates.com has written huge amounts on this and even to the most sceptical of people makes enormous sense and brings clarity to a hugely complicated TPD + amendments
nicely crafted blogs . .reported today that once again puts the TPD in context
1 courtesy of Joanne Lincoln http://t.co/VHrHeTfDTB
which includes a link to todays Dave Dorn comments
2 Dr Gilbert Ross http://www.forbes.com/sites/realspin/2013/01/10/the-eus-new-tobacco-directive-protecting-cigarette-markets-killing-smokers/
Orb Skewer September 30, 2013
Murder by proxy.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of Evil is that Good Men Do Nothing”
Dragonmum September 30, 2013
A lot of us have been beating our brains out since before last Christmas trying to get through to MEPs, MPs etc. Why are ecigs even in a Tobacco Products Directive when they are not a tobacco product?