Monday 29 July 2013

Tobacco Products Directive? Nein Danke!

If I credited them with enough wit and guile, I could almost suspect that the architects of the Tobacco Products Directive put e-cigarettes into the legislation to draw attention away from all the other illiberal nonsense they've got planned.

At some point in 2015-16, millions of Europeans are going to pop into their local shop and find that their usual brand of cigarettes, or pouch of rolling tobacco, is no longer available. Those who smoke menthol and slims will be told that the EU decided to ban them back in 2013. The packs will be covered in giant warnings covering three-quarters of their surface. The exact size and dimensions of the packaging and the cigarettes will have been dictated in Brussels.

While the obesity warriors strive to make crisp packets and chocolate bars smaller, the Tobacco Products Directive aims to make packs of tobacco larger. While scientists recognise that Swedish snus is the world's least hazardous tobacco product, the EU will maintain its ban on it.

None of this can be justified either on health grounds or on grounds of market harmonisation. As Angela Harbutt notes in this article, no EU country has even considered banning menthol. Nor has any EU government mandated 75 per cent graphic warnings, or demanded that cigarettes be exactly 7.5mm in diameter, or implemented any of the other three-in-the-morning ideas that the berks of Brussels have come up with.

If you are a regular reader, you will know all this by now. You will be familiar with the barely believable exploits of incompetent and/or corrupt individuals like Anna Soubry, John Dalli, Linda MacAvan et al. Unfortunately, most people have not even heard of the Tobacco Products Directive because the media have almost universally decided not to report it. Most of the consumers who will be affected by this legislation will not know about it until after—probably long after—it has been passed. Many will not be aware of it until that day in 2015-16 when they find their product of choice is no longer legal. That is just the way the European Commission wants it. By then, people can tut and grumble all they like but there will be nothing they can do about it.

That day has not come yet, however, and I'm pleased to see that Forest is fighting the consumer's corner will its new campaign No ThankEU! which gives the facts about the legislation and allows people to register their opposition. Do go have a read, sign up, share and follow them on Twitter. The more noise that is made about the EU's bureaucratic power grab the better.


Ken said...

Not a word on the site about e-cigs, as far as I can see. I know this is paid for by the tobacco industry (and I have no objection to that) but apart from anything else, the e-cig proposal is the one that has already riled people most.

Clive Bates said...

My own contribution to pouring scorn on the directive: a gargantuan dog's breakfast.

Particularly concerning for the Prime Minister and anyone concerned for our relationship with the EU will be the Department of Health contribution to the Balance of Competencies Review, which basically reports that all's for the best in the best of all possible worlds....

In summary, most of the responses we received suggested that the current balance of competence appears to be working well, resulting in complementary UK and EU action to reduce the harm from tobacco in the UK. Some respondents also noted that it has helped to strengthen the functioning of the single market. The Government recognises the positive joint working between Member States and the Commission, and that this work has been instrumental in reducing smoking rates across the EU. Those against legislation in the area of tobacco would appear to prefer a less regulatory approach to tobacco control more generally, regardless of whether that legislation emanates from the EU or is domestic legislation.
Without legislation at the EU level, the UK would need to legislate domestically to ensure comprehensive tobacco control remained in place in the UK, affording the public with the same levels of protection from the harms from tobacco that they enjoy now.
Legislation – both EU and domestic – has been shown to be an important tool in comprehensive tobacco control and has helped the UK comply with its obligations under the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
In conclusion, based on the evidence submitted, the current balance of competence between the EU and the UK was considered by stakeholders to be broadly appropriate and that these competences are properly applied but that competence
should not be extended further.

That doesn't seem to leave much room for Mr Cameron's most difficult political challenge - renegotiation of the terms of EU membership. Not surprising really, DH has its hands dipped in the blood... all departments do, as they negotiated these arrangements over the years with the backing of the stakeholders they consulted. It would be odd if they suddenly declared them unfit. That amounts to a deep flaw in the design of the 'balance of competencies' process.

Junican said...

I had exactly the same thoughts about ecigs (and snus) in the directive. (Witness Soubry's belief that the ecig directive had been abandoned, and it might yet be so - Black was embarrassed). They are not important. The blueprint demands PP legislation. Legislation is the be-all and end-all. Whether it is good legislation or not is neither here nor there.
Unfortunately, I don't think that Mr Bates is ready to admit that Tobacco Control has been taken over by charlatans.

Junican said...

Further, I am curious about which WHO committee is directing the action, and who the members of that committee are.
There is an attack being mounted in the USA on menthol cigarettes at this same moment:

The FDA published preliminary results from a study it conducted that suggests "menthol cigarettes pose a public health risk above that seen with non-menthol cigarettes."

FDA considers tightening rules on menthol cigarettes -

The coincidences are becoming too conspicuous.