Wednesday

26th Jul 2017

Tobacco giant spent up to €1.25mn on EU lobbying in 2012

Tobacco giant Philip Morris International (PMI) was said to have spent €1.5 million on lunches and dinners in an effort to woo MEPs into weakening the revised EU legislation on tobacco products up for a vote at the next Strasbourg plenary. This allegation turned out to be false.

The figure, unveiled on Thursday (3 October) by the co-leader of the Green group, German MEP Rebecca Harms, covered meetings in the past year with around a third of the entire European Parliament.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Harm says PMI spent over a million to wine and dine MEPs (Photo: Chris Chapman)

“The Philip Morris experience I would say for this parliament is a very dark experience,” she said.

PMI told this website the broader allegations of heavy lobbying are false. In a press statement, PMI estimated costs between €1 million to €1.25 million for representing PMI’s interests to EU institutions in 2012.

Harms on Friday (4 October) had misspoken. Her office told this website that she intended to quote the €1 million to €1.25 million from the transparency register and that the figure includes all lobbying efforts and not just wine and food.

Meanwhile, the vote on the directive, initially scheduled for early September, is said to have been delayed following intense lobbying by the company in an effort to push legislative deliberations into the upcoming and more tobacco-friendly Greek EU presidency.

Harms, along with the Swedish Green MEP Carl Schlyter who co-chairs the public health committee, told reporters in Brussels that amendments tabled by mostly centre-right, conservative, and some liberal MEPs align with a PMI wish-list of five main legislative changes.

The list includes removing a ban on menthols, having health warnings only at the bottom of the pack, easing restrictions on next-generation products like e-cigarettes, and reducing the size of warning labels.

The company also wants to remove several so-called delegated acts, preventing EU lawmakers from more easily updating the directive after it becomes law.

Among the MEPs to have scripted pro-tobacco text is Polish centre-right Jolanta Hibner, who tabled an amendment, prepared with other deputies, to remove the ban of menthol.

She told this website that menthol is a commonly used food additive.

“It is widely used in products like toothpaste, and there are no proofs of its harmfulness,” she said in an email.

Poland is one of the biggest producers and consumers of menthol cigarettes.

She noted that the Polish position both in the European Parliament and among the member states is to remove the ban proposed by the European Commission.

She added: “I did not have any meetings with representatives of the tobacco industry.”

Critics say menthol is a facilitator to get young people to smoke because it reduces the coughing reflex.

PMI, which says it generates some €14.6 billion in tax revenue in the EU, has cornered more than half of the menthol cigarette market.

It says the ban on menthol and slims, proposed by the directive, will create an illicit market.

Centre-right German MEP Renate Sommer, for her part, said her decision to remove the delegated acts in the directive “has absolute nothing to do with the Philip Morris position.”

Sommer says the decision is meant to rein in the powers of the commission.

“We only have the right to veto a delegated act decision by the commission,” she told this website.

She noted that the obstacles to achieve a majority for a veto are high.

“Additionally, we are not allowed to change the text of proposals brought forward via delegated acts through the tabling of amendments,” she said.

Sommer, in a list she sent to this website, notes that she spoke to British American Tobacco and around a dozen other representatives.

She has also received letters from Philip Morris, the Electronic Cigarette Industry Trade Association and the Smoke Free Partnership, among many others.

E-cigarettes with tobacco

Meanwhile, PMI plans to invest between €500 million to €600 million on one or two factories to develop the next-generation product in Europe, set for market entry in 2016 or 2017.

“Some of the products under development contain tobacco and some do not,” PMI told this website in an email.

Schlyter says the plan is to make a hybrid e-cigarette that contains some tobacco.

The revised directive splits next-generation products into two articles.

One concerns new products that contain tobacco and the second involves nicotine-only products like e-cigarettes.

He says PMI lobbied heavily on the new tobacco product article because it plans on developing the hybrid e-cigarette.

“There is a big risk that we will lose the e-cigarette vote to this consumer legislation,” he said.

This article was updated on Friday 4 October at 15.10 local time to include a PMI press statement on how much the company spent on EU lobbying in 2012

Agenda

Intensely lobbied tobacco law to be voted THIS WEEK

MEPs gathering in Strasbourg this week will vote on a long-delayed and heavily lobbied law banning flavoured cigarettes and increasing the size of warnings on cigarette packs.

Investigation

Inside the Code of Conduct, the EU's most secretive group

The informal group of national officials that is in charge of checking EU countries' tax laws is now working on the first EU blacklist of tax havens, amid critiques over its lack of transparency and accountability.

Ombudsman asks for more details on Barroso case

Emily O'Reilly has asked the EU Commission to say what former commissioners should be allowed to do after they leave office and explain why it took no decision over its former president's controversial new job.

Investigation

Inside the Code of Conduct, the EU's most secretive group

The informal group of national officials that is in charge of checking EU countries' tax laws is now working on the first EU blacklist of tax havens, amid critiques over its lack of transparency and accountability.

Ombudsman asks for more details on Barroso case

Emily O'Reilly has asked the EU Commission to say what former commissioners should be allowed to do after they leave office and explain why it took no decision over its former president's controversial new job.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU2017EELocal Leaders Push for Local and Regional Targets to Address Climate Change
  2. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceMore Women Than Men Have Died From Heart Disease in Past 30 Years
  3. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  4. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference
  5. ECPAFood waste in the field can double without crop protection. #WithOrWithout #pesticides
  6. EU2017EEEstonia Allocates €1 Million to Alleviate Migratory Pressure From Libya in Italy
  7. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen's Message on the Anniversary of the Coup Attempt in Turkey
  8. Martens CentreWeeding out Fake News: An Approach to Social Media Regulation
  9. European Jewish CongressEJC Concerned by Normalisation of Antisemitic Tropes in Hungary
  10. Counter BalanceOut for Summer Episode 1: How the EIB Sweeps a Development Fiasco Under the Rug
  11. CESICESI to Participate in Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee on Postal Services
  12. ILGA-EuropeMalta Keeps on Rocking: Marriage Equality on Its Way

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Friends of ArmeniaEuFoA Director and MEPs Comment on the Recent Conflict Escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh
  2. EU2017EEEstonian Presidency Kicks off Youth Programme With Coding Summer School
  3. EPSUEP Support for Corporate Tax Transparency Principle Unlikely to Pass Reality Check
  4. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament Improves the External Investment Plan but Significant Challenges Ahead
  5. EU2017EEPM Ratas: EU Is Not Only an Idea for the 500mn People in the Bloc, It Is Their Daily Reality
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersCloser Energy Co-Operation Keeps Nordic Region on Top in Green Energy
  7. ILGA-EuropeGermany Finally Says Ja - Bundestag Votes for Marriage Equality!
  8. EPSUJapanese and European Public Sector Unions Slam JEFTA
  9. World VisionEU, Young Leaders and Civil Society Join Forces to End Violence Against Girls
  10. UNICEFNarrowing the Gaps: The Power of Investing in the Health of the Poorest Children
  11. EU2017EEEstonia to Surprise Europe With Unique Cultural Programme
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Talks Should Insist on Ending Reprisals Vs. Critical Voices