Friday

18th Oct 2019

EU tobacco lobbying is 'David vs. Goliath'

  • Snus: to stay off the EU market despite heavy lobbying, Borg said (Photo: Ole C Eid)

The tobacco industry in Brussels spends over €5 million a year and employs around around 100 full-time lobbyists to influence EU legislation, says an anti-smoking advocacy group.

“These figures are only the tip of the iceberg,” said Forence Berteletti Kemp, director of the Brussels-based advocacy group Smoke Free Partnership, on Monday (25 February), at a European parliament hearing on tobacco products.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Kemp noted that by comparison there is only a handful of anti-smoking lobbyists with only a fraction of the budget.

“We, in the Smoke Free Partnership, are only two people working,” Kemp told euro-deputies, pro-tobacco representatives, and EU health commissioner Tonio Borg.

Kemp likened the anti- and pro-tobacco lobbying campaign in Brussels to David versus Goliath.

“Despite the size, David won,” Kemp said in reference to the commission’s latest draft legislation to promote larger health warnings on cigarette packages and place a ban on some tobacco flavours.

Irish health minister James Reilly, who was also present, said public health care for tobacco-related illnesses in Europe costs over €23 billion annually. “And that’s before you count the costs of human misery,” said Reilly.

An estimated 700,000 people in Europe die from smoking-related diseases each year.

The Brussels executive is banned from meeting tobacco companies in secret and must inform the public about the addictive and harmful nature of tobacco products.

But critics say transparency issues remain.

Kemp pointed out that representatives from a tobacco giant were given an audience last year with cabinet members of EU commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso.

The industry also met with top officials in the secretariat general as well as others in the commission's directorate for health and consumer affairs. The meetings were disclosed only after pro-transparency groups made formal access to document requests.

“When we asked to get a meeting on the TPD [tobacco productive directive], we were referred back to the health commissioner. So who has been given fair access at the highest level and who has not?” said Kemp.

Some of the meetings were also held with former health commissioner John Dalli who was later fired for allegedly accepting a bribe to lift an EU-wide marketing and sale ban on Swedish tobacco snus.

The mouth tobacco manufacturer Swedish Match says it was being pressured to hand out cash to a Dalli middleman to set up a meeting with the commissioner. Dalli denies the allegations and maintains his innocence.

Meanwhile, Borg told the deputies the commission has no intention to lift the ban on snus.

“Snus is addictive, has adverse health affects, and is increasingly sold in Sweden in packages and flavours targeting young people,” said the commissioner.

Pro-tobacco representative Michiel Reerink, who is a board member of the Confederation of European Community Cigarette Manufacturers (CECCM), said Borg’s tobacco directive would introduce market barriers, increase the regulatory burden and encourage contraband.

“This proposal will not achieve its state objectives,” said Reerink.

Reerink said there is no evidence to support the idea that larger graphic warnings are likely to reduce smoking.

“This would be a huge business opportunity for smugglers and contraband,” said Reerink, noting that the EU-based industry employs 1.5 million people.

Italian MEP Oreste Rossi of the eurosceptic EDF group backed his comments. Rossi said the EU directive would promote illegal cigarette trafficking and diminish an important source of tax revenue for member states.

Opinion

EU losing again in lobbying game

The EU has already lost two opportunities to create a lobbyist registry fit for purpose. It is now preparing to lose a third one.

News in Brief

  1. Almost 7,500 people forcibly returned to Libya in 2019
  2. Puigdemont released after responding to arrest warrant
  3. Commission: Facebook's Libra needs international approach
  4. Italian PM: denial of accession talks a 'historic mistake'
  5. Catalan president blames clashes on 'infiltrators'
  6. US imposes €6.7bn new tariffs on European products
  7. G7: Libra should not operate until all risks addressed
  8. Kurds agree with US-Turkey ceasefire but not safe-zone

Stakeholder

FIFA's schools programme aims to reach 700m children

Football clubs today invest huge sums of money in youth development and court talented young players from an early age. Children are the future – not only where football is concerned, but also for society in general.

Opinion

A fundamental contradiction in EU drug policy

The knock-on affects from a 'war on drugs' in Europe is creating problems in Albania - and as far afield as Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Bangladesh and the Philippines.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  2. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  3. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  4. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  6. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  10. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  12. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  2. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  3. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  8. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  9. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  12. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us