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‘Constant meddling’ of tobacco lobbies preventing effective anti-smoking legislation

Tobacco is the only legal consumer product that kills its users when they follow the manufacturer’s exact instructions.

Currently, smoking kills nearly six million people a year, including 700,000 in Europe – this is the equivalent of the population of a city the size of Frankfurt. By 2030, this number could rise to eight million. In order to reverse this worrying trend, strong action must be taken. We already know what measures best serve the fight against smoking. What gets in the way of effectively implementing them is the tobacco industry’s constant meddling in our policymaking. This meddling is continuous and premeditated. It occurs on all levels of tobacco manufacturing – from its cultivation, to its transformation, all the way to its marketing. “Currently, smoking kills nearly six million people a year, including 700,000 in Europe – this is the equivalent of the population of a city the size of Frankfurt. By 2030, this number could rise to eight million”

This is why I have decided to create a working group against tobacco manufacturers’ interference in decision making. Joining me in this endeavour are Paris councillor Pauline Delpech (Greens), Françoise Grossetête (EPP, FR), Robert Rochert (ALDE, FR), Frédérique Ries (ALDE, BE), José Bové (Greens/EFA, FR), Bart Staes (Greens/EFA, BE), Michèle Rivasi (Greens/EFA, FR), Younous Omarjee (GUE/NGL, FR), Eleonora Evi (EFDD, IT) and Fabio Massimo Castaldo (EFDD, IT).

This group will bring together MEPs from all parties and all nationalities, as well as representatives from anti-smoking organisations. Over 40 deputies have already indicated that they would like to join the working group. Our logic is simple, but radically different from what has been done in the past. We will strive to set up new anti-smoking policies that take aim at manufacturers. During the revision process of tobacco products directive, we witnessed cigarette producers prospering through the use of a wide array of tactics and strategies to defy anti-smoking policies. 200 lobbyists were recruited by the three main tobacco producers – Philip Morris, British American Tobacco and Japan Tobacco – with a budget of €5m at their disposal to kill the tobacco products directive.

The forced resignation of European health and consumer policy commissioner John Dalli and classification of MEPs according to their stance on tobacco products by Philip Morris are sad illustrations of this. Fortunately, there is a solution to counter this global threat – the world health organisation’s framework convention on tobacco control. In total, 179 countries, in addition to the EU, have decided to adopt this international convention to contain the smoking epidemic and its slew of illnesses.

These countries have signalled their commitment to fighting against tobacco lobbies’ influence, as stated by the convention, “by defining and applying their public health policies related to anti-smoking measures, the signatories will ensure that these policies are not influences by the commercial interests of the tobacco industry, in line with national laws”.

Our working group’s main goal will be to ensure this article is respected within the European and national institutions.

In this context, we will oversee the ambitious implementation of the tobacco products directive in all member states and will do everything we can to prevent the renewal of dubious cooperation agreements between the EU and tobacco manufacturers in the fight against the illegal sale of cigarettes.

About the author
Gilles Pargneaux (S&D, FR) is a vice-chair of parliament’s environment, public health and food safety committee.

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