Thursday, 1 March 2012

EU seeks again to harmonise policy on tobacco

EC Commissioner John Dalli announced yesterday his desire for plain packaging and for tobacco to be made to look unappealing. He refers again to the revision of the tobacco products directive, upon which there was an EU public consultation last year, showing most citizens to be opposed to Europe-wide regulation on tobacco. The section on Consumer Information (section 6) included discussion of plain packaging. In the section recording responses of government representatives, it read:
While most Member States were in favour of all proposed policy options for improving consumer information, plain packaging proved to be the most controversial. Almost half of respondents supported the introduction of plain packaging alongside the other recommended changes, but several indicated that the solutions to these problems should be more carefully analysed. 
The other categories of respondent are NGOs, industry and citizens. Let us hope those 50 per cent of government representatives who oppose the plain packaging dig in their heels when it comes time to revise the tobacco products directive as John Dalli intends to do by the end of this year:
Besides attractiveness, there are two other key issues that I consider essential for the revision of the Tobacco Products Directive. First, I am reflecting on possible ways of regulating access to tobacco in a more stringent manner to limit the exposure of minors to tobacco products. Second, I am considering how to address new types of nicotine products on the market, such as electronic cigarettes. This is the general framework in which I plan to propose a revision of the Tobacco Products Directive by the end of this year.
It is not clear that he intends to take into account the results of last year's consultation. In fact he tells us that 'consultations are ongoing', although he does not specify who has been consulted since the report was published:
Over the past ten years or so, the EU has consistently shown strong leadership in global tobacco control. We should be proud of our achievements in the international arena, and seek to build on them. The revision of the Tobacco Products Directive needs to demonstrate the EU's continuing momentum to keep up this level of leadership and to take it further. I know that many Member States are keen to live up to their commitments under the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. However, Member States cannot make progress in areas such as labelling and ingredients without further harmonisation at EU level.
Leadership in tobacco control takes priority over democratic accountability.

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