MEP Cristian Bușoi establishes tobacco working group ahead of #Tobacco Products Directive revision

| October 21, 2019

 

The EU’s flagship Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) is up for a scheduled review in 2021, but MEP Cristian Bușoi (EPP, Romania) is determined to start preparing the review now alongside his parliamentary colleagues. Bușoi, who has a history of fighting to regulate the tobacco industry, is establishing a new Working Group on the revision of the Tobacco Products Directive which seeks to involve MEPs from the ENVI, IMCO or ITREE committees.

The need to prepare the revision of the TPD well in advance is logical given both the directive’s pivotal importance and the tobacco industry’s heavy lobbying against it. When the EU adopted the TPD—formally known as Directive 2014/40/EU—it enabled the bloc’s member states to a minimum set of harmonized legislation to regulate tobacco consumption, which results in the premature death of 700,000 people each year in Europe.

Unsurprisingly, the tobacco industry did its utmost to water down the provisions of the TPD. In fact, the Tobacco Directive is considered to be the most lobbied file in the EU’s history. The tobacco industry hired more than 200 lobbyists—one for every 3.5 MEPs—on top of the network of front groups also pushing the industry’s agenda.

This concerted effort apparently bore some fruit—the final text of the TPD appeared to be lenient with tobacco manufacturers in a number of areas. Several TPD provisions were completely redrafted during the opaque trialogue phase—associations and MEPs alike suspected that Jean-Claude Juncker’s Commission, which had seemed fairly open to lobbying in general, had given up ground to the tobacco lobby.

Given the fact that the cigarette industry is almost certain to renew this pressure ahead of the 2021 review of the TPD, it makes sense that civil society groups are already trying how to push back. According to Bușoi, the upcoming review has to address a number of issues which have cropped up since the TPD was adopted in 2014. For one thing, the growing debate and general uncertainties surrounding electronic cigarettes means that the legislative framework needs to be adapted accordingly. Heated tobacco products which were put on the market after the TPD’s adoption also need to be dealt with: should they be considered as tobacco products as the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends in its 2019 Global Tobacco Epidemic Report, published this July?

Another important development that has taken place since the TPD’s adoption is that the WHO Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco entered into force on 25 September 2018 after having obtained the 40 ratifications necessary. 57 parties have now signed onto this international treaty, including 16 EU member states and the EU itself—meaning that a more comprehensive review of control over the tobacco supply chain is needed.

This broad range of issues to be dealt with during the review of the Tobacco Directive underpins Bușoi’s desire to start preparing the review now in his working group. According to Bușoi, such early preparation is particularly important so that the European Parliament and the European Commission can work together for the 2021 review in a collaborative approach, free from tobacco industry influence.

Cristian Bușoi has proposed that the working group will meet on a regular basis every two months, starting in November 2019. He has also suggested that it should be able to interview as many representatives from the Commission, the EU member states, and the national parliaments, anti-tobacco associations, specialists, external personalities, lawyers, and tobacco industry executives as necessary in a democratic, public and transparent manner.

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