Tuesday 16 April 2013

Tobacco Products Directive grows warts

The EU's new Tobacco Products Directive is an appallingly ill-considered piece of legislation which exists principally to bolster the egos of European Commission officials. From banning e-cigarettes to prohibiting menthol, its main clauses are petty, vindictive and frequently bad for health. It has already been rejected by sane politicians.

There is an urgent need for this draft legislation to be amended to reflect science and reason. Unfortunately, the person put in charge of suggesting amendments is Labour MEP Linda McAvan and she is an advocate of neither. Incredibly, she has found ways of making it even worse.

In her role as rapporteur, McAvan has ignored the scientifically insupportable ban on snus (in force since 1992) which the Directive could overturn. She has also ignored the de facto ban on e-cigarettes (which the Directive will bring about). Instead, she has gone through the draft directive line-by-line, looking for ways to put new warts onto an ugly piece of legislation.

As if it were not enough to ban the two products which have the greatest potential to reduce the number of cigarette smokers, McAvan wants to hinder the development of any other reduced harm products in the future.


(31) All tobacco products have the potential to cause mortality, morbidity and disability and their consumption should be contained. It is therefore important to pre- authorise any novel tobacco products. An obligation to apply for a marketing authorisation for novel tobacco products should be put on manufacturers and importers.


Tobacco products are extremely harmful to public health and should not be allowed on the market without being pre-authorised by public authorities.

This amendment will override the draft TPD's proposal that a "notification obligation for novel tobacco products should be put on manufacturers and importers." Instead, McAvan wants new products to be preemptively banned. And, as we have seen with snus, once the EU bans a 'novel' product, it does not matter how much evidence subsequently appears to demonstrate safety and efficacy, it stays banned. Like much of the TPD, McAvan's amendment seems designed to allow cigarette manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies to tighten their stranglehold on the nicotine market.

She then calls for EU-wide plain packaging...


22 a. Where combined health warnings are used, the rest of the tobacco package should be standardised and free from any branding, in order to maximise the impact of the health warning. Evidence shows that standardised packaging is particularly effective in dissuading young people from starting to smoke.


Standardised "plain" packaging is anything but plain - most of the packet is covered with large graphic health warnings, and in Australia the background is a dark, drab brown. Four Member States are at varying stages of considering standard packs (UK, BE, FI and FR). Fully standardising packaging is the most effective way of removing obstacles to trade on the single market. It is also the best option in terms of health protection: it increases the impact of health warnings amongst those who have not yet started to smoke, and is proven to be effective at discouraging young people in particular from starting

Saying that plain packaging is "proven to be effective" in preventing people from smoking is simply a lie. It has only been tried in Australia and there is as yet no evidence that it has lived up to any of the promises made by the tobacco control industry.

It is also untrue that plain packs are the most "effective" way of maintaining a single market, but if the EU were truly concerned about maintaining a single market, it would make snus legal across all member states, not just in Sweden.

On a somewhat lighter/surreal note, McAvan must have heard that the Australians have been covering up their cigarette packs with stickers and cases, because she wants to ban those too... 

Text proposed by the Commission

4. Member States shall ensure that the health warnings of the main surface of the unit packet and any outside packaging are fully visible, including not being partially or totally hidden or interrupted by wrappers, pouches, jacket, boxes or other devices when tobacco products are placed on the market.


4. Member States shall ensure that the health warnings of the main surface of the unit packet and any outside packaging are fully visible, and shall adopt the necessary rules to prevent the placing on the market of any type of wrapper, pouch, jacket, box or other device which partially or entirely hides or interrupts the health warnings.


Measures should be taken to ensure that the health warnings are clearly visible to the public.

This is the downward spiral of tail-chasing bureaucracy that Brussels in renowned for. If they make the packs too ugly, people will cover the packs and not see the warnings. A mature democracy would therefore respect the consumer by not using silly shock tactics, but would provide sober, evidence-based information about the hazards of smoking instead. Such an approach does not even occur to the grandstanding neo-prohibitionist addict of legislation, who prefers to ban "wrappers, pouches, jackets, boxes" and anything else that could conceivably cover a cigarette pack. Good luck with that, boys and girls.


Christopher Snowdon said...

Don't be silly. Only a totalitarian state would do that.

They're just going to make it a crime to sell them. Perfectly reasonable ;)

The Thought Gang said...

"Are these bastards saying that using a cigarette case to hold fags will be an offence?"

Not under that wording. But selling a cigarette case would be an offence. As would selling anything else that could be used for such a purpose.. such as, y'know, any container which is larger than a cigarette.

Also, whilst it doesn't appear that covering the packet with a sticker would be an offence, selling stickers to cover packets would be an offence.. or, indeed, selling stickers which *could* cover packets (otherwise known as all stickers, plus, one assumes, any kind of materal/adhesive combo which could be used to create something sticker-like).

I know it's a competitive field.. but this woman might just have proposed the stupidest piece of regulation ever.

Unknown said...

The wording doesn't ban cigarette cases as you can transfer the cigs to a different package, but I'm pretty sure that's the intent.

"I know it's a competitive field.. but this woman might just have proposed the stupidest piece of regulation ever."

It's completely unenforceable, you might as well legislate for people to fly by flapping their arms up and down. So yep, agree fully.

Jonathan Bagley said...

Chris, what is the document you are quoting from?

Christopher Snowdon said...

It's the report that was published the Friday before last. It doesn't seem to be available, but if you cut and paste some of the text you'll see where it was/is.

Christopher Snowdon said...

OK, found it. It's here http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-%2F%2FEP%2F%2FNONSGML%2BCOMPARL%2BPE-508.085%2B03%2BDOC%2BWORD%2BV0%2F%2FEN

Now added to post.

Ben said...

We are getting close to the end: The Tobacco End Game - http://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/22/suppl_1.toc

Unknown said...

Hopefully not so many people read your blog because it's a full of crap, like cigarettes in fact

Unknown said...

It seems like they want to ban all cigarettes...