Friday 14 September 2012

Tobacco Product Directive leaked to the press

A draft of the EU's Tobacco Product Directive was leaked to the German press this week. You may recall the EU-wide public consultation on this directive, the results of which were published last year and showed majority opposition to extreme tobacco control measures and a "vast majority" in favour of repealing the scientifically baseless ban on snus.

"A significant majority of (citizen) respondents were against extending the scope of the Directive (ie further regulations).

A vast majority of (citizen) respondents ... were in favour of lifting the ban on snus.

A significant majority of (citizen) respondents disagreed with the regulation of ingredients at the EU level.

A significant majority of (citizen) respondents opposed limiting access to tobacco products."

The 125 page draft document strongly suggests that the European Commission has decided not to listen to the citizens and has instead decided to heed their sock-puppet pressure groups and the gentlemen of the pharmaceutical industry. This may not surprise you. According to European news sources, the directive could be much worse than anybody feared. Lowlights include: -

  • Total ban on all forms of smokeless tobacco across the EU (except Sweden)
  • Total ban on e-cigarettes
  • Ban on menthol and other flavourings (previously rumoured, as I reported in April)
  • Standardised cigarette width, length and colour
  • Ban on shopkeepers displaying more than one variety of each brand
  • Graphic warnings on packs covering 75 per cent of the surface

The ban on smokeless will affect nasal snuff and all forms of chewing tobacco. This will be particularly unpopular with the various ethnic minorities who use Asian-style products. It will also mean a ban on loose snus in Denmark, where it has hitherto been covered by the 'traditional use' clause (see here for coverage of the Danish issue.)

Of course, this means no repeal of the snus ban and therefore no chance for EU citizens to benefit from the 'Swedish experience' of mass switching to a 99% safer alternative. As The Local reminds us...

In Sweden currently only 11 percent of the adult population are smokers compared to the EU average which is 28 percent.

Any government that was serious about health would legalise snus immediately. Alternatively, any government that believed that smokeless tobacco was such a serious threat that it needed banning would remove the Swedish exemption. This transparently isn't about health. It is about money and politics.

The pharmaceutical industry—and, indeed, the tobacco industry—will be even happier to hear that e-cigarettes are in the firing line. The draft directive recommends that only 'NCPs' (nicotine-containing products) which have been authorised as medicinal products should be allowed on the market. Since e-cigarettes make no claim to be medicinal products, this would see them banned. Hundreds of thousands of EU citizens who have successfully quit smoking with these devices would be pushed back to cigarettes. Great work.

Many of the other policy recommendations are petty and trivial, seemingly designed to do nothing more than annoy the tobacco industry. Preventing shopkeepers from stocking more than one variety of each cigarette brand is a new one to me. I can't imagine who dreamt up that policy or what they were smoking at the time. Likewise, the ban on menthol and other flavourings has no scientific justification (see the tedious campaign by the FDA to do likewise) and is only on the agenda because the prohibitionists are itching to ban something and it's easier to ban minority products like menthol cigarettes and smokeless tobacco than cigarettes themselves.

The policy of covering tobacco products with 75 per cent graphic warnings is cut from the same bone-headed cloth. Presumably this is for the benefit of all those people who haven't heard the news about smoking being bad for them. It falls short of plain packaging, but only just, as Die Welt reports:

If one adds the revenue stamp as another element whose size is specified, the manufacturers will be left with approximately ten percent of a pack surface where they can exercise their freedom of design.

Furthermore, the legislation can easily be updated in the future when the unelected European Commission is ready to take the 'next logical step':

The Commission is seeing the restrictions as part of a preliminary stage: five years from the effective date of the directive that is now being planned, it wants to submit additional proposals “in the direction of full plain packaging”, i.e. a ban on the use of any logos, pictures, letterings, and font types.

That's the news as I understand it so far (mainly gathered from foreign sources as the British media haven't shown any interest). Looks like health and liberty will be sacrificed for special interests once again, but that's the European Commission for you—incompetent and rotten to the core.


Jay said...

Chris, you've omitted an "f" for the word "for" in that last sentence.

Anyway, is there any place in the world left for consumers of tobacco products to be free from special interests and nannying governments? Because I'd like to move there.

James Burr said...

The single brand restriction is not only pointless but also dangerous. I don't care what junk studies they have produced to say otherwise, but I recently switched from Light Cigarettes to "Super-Lights" (instead of 7mg tar, they have 1mg tar and instead of 0.7mg nicotine they have 0.1mg). Since doing so my runs (I'm training for a half marathon) have jumped from a 4 mile plateau to my being able to do 10 miles. In addition, my average heart rate when running has dropped 10 beats per minute and my resting heart rate is now in the high 50s (dropped 10 bpm since switching). PLUS, I still get to smoke and now my taste buds have adapted, I enjoy them as much as any other fag. Win-win!

Yet this new restriction will possibly limit my access to these fags - most shops will only stock the normals or the lights - super-lights are not a big seller. So what now? Am I supposed to switch back to stronger fags?

Similarly, the restriction on e-cigs and smokeless tobacco.... What is the alternative? Smoking full strength cigarettes? In what bizarro-world does any of this make any sort of sense from a public health/harm reduction point of view?

Unknown said...

It was never about health in the first place (as we all know), the difference now is that they're starting to no longer feel the need to pretend that it is/was.

Jackson said...

Some of these bansturbator types have told me that they want to save the lives of people who haven't been born yet.

They think that they will be revered by the hundreds of billions of people who are yet to live and that this outweighs any harm done to the currently living.

Anonymous said...

Novartis lets it all hang out in their public affairs web site.

"Until recently, efforts by European regulators to reduce smoking were concentrated mainly on the introduction of 'smoke free' legislation which prohibits smoking in certain environments. Novartis believes that greater public health benefits could be achieved through a policy of smoking cessation, coupled with increased duty on tobacco.

Novartis is campaigning to encourage policies to complement non-smoking environments with smoking cessation, with nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) as an important component of an EU strategy on tobacco control.

Together with various NGOs, we helped to foster a 'Smoke Free Partnership.' Our aim is to foster a policy and legislative environment which leads to better public health through strong tobacco control measures and increased availability of NRT in line with the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control."

This company in Poland openly accuses Big Pharma of corruption.

Christopher Snowdon said...

Thanks Jay.

Nice find, Dave. The rent-seeking is now very blatant.

Unknown said...

Nothing is sacred from these bastards is it? I have recently just switched to e-cigs.

They will have to wrestle it from my cold dead hands because I will just buy it in from China if needs be, or learn to make my own juice. It seems that they are trying to suck the life out of us and I'm fucking sick of it.

JohnB said...

Some examples of the street-level morons created by the ivory-tower morons of Public Health™:

Brookline Arrest Log: Anti-Smoking Dirt Thrower

Justin Dain Palmer Accused Of Pointing Gun At Pregnant Smoker
[check out some of the deranged comments]

DP said...

Dear Mr Snowdon

The whole EU project is one of the largest scams in the world, and proposals like these make it clearer every day to those with more than half a brain cell. Unfortunately it seems that many in this country lack that much and give fulsome support to ever more ridiculous regulation imposed by the Eurocrats via their compliant traitor governments.

” ... (mainly gathered from foreign sources as the British media haven't shown any interest).”

This is so the proposals, when enacted in the UK by our Quisling government, will be claimed as entirely their own.


Jonathan Bagley said...

If this proposal ever becomes law, there will be by then a couple of million ecig smokers in the UK. Ecigs will, by then, be regarded in the same way as coffee or Red Bull. The ecig industry has a very impressive trade asscoiation, ECITA. Take a look at the website - particularly the letters sent to the Mirror and the Mail. Ecig users are very vocal and well organised. They suffer none of the guilt that many smokers suffer from. 400ml of concentrated ecig liquid (about the size of a can of beans) will last a year. A ban will not work

Modred said...

Comes as no surprise to me. The EU is a totalitarian organization. As such, they want control over every aspect of your life. And control comes from restrictions of personal freedoms.

Karl Fasbracke said...


I took the liberty to translate your article into German and post it on my blog (with proper credits). I hope you don't mind. Otherwise let me know.

Karl Fasbracke said...


where did you get the information that they are planning to ban e-cigarettes. The article in "Die Welt" does not mention this.