Tuesday

17th Oct 2017

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.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  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.

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.

Analysis

Obesity linked to agricultural policy, new studies say

The number of obese children and adolescents worldwide has risen tenfold in the past four decades, according to the WHO. Health campaigners are pushing for a radical rethink of the EU's common agricultural policy to help tackle the obesity epidemic.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsEU Should Seek Concrete Commitments From Azerbaijan at Human Rights Dialogue
  2. European Jewish CongressEJC Calls for New Austrian Government to Exclude Extremist Freedom Party
  3. CES - Silicones EuropeIn Healthcare, Silicones Are the Frontrunner. And That's a Good Thing!
  4. EU2017EEEuropean Space Week 2017 in Tallinn from November 3-9. Register Now!
  5. European Entrepreneurs CEA-PMEMobiliseSME Exchange Programme Open Doors for 400 Companies Across Europe
  6. CECEE-Privacy Regulation – Hands off M2M Communication!
  7. ILGA-EuropeHealth4LGBTI: Reducing Health Inequalities Experienced by LGBTI People
  8. EU2017EEEHealth: A Tool for More Equal Health
  9. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Tourism a Key Driver for Job Creation and Enhanced Competitiveness
  10. CECENon-Harmonised Homologation of Mobile Machinery Costs € 90 Million per Year
  11. ILGA-EuropeMass Detention of Azeri LGBTI People - the LGBTI Community Urgently Needs Your Support
  12. European Free AllianceCatalans Have Won the Right to Have an Independent State

Latest News

  1. Malta shocked after car bomb kills crusading journalist
  2. Spanish and Catalan leaders continue stand-off
  3. May pleads for more as EU makes Brexit gesture
  4. EU united in backing Iran deal, after Trump criticisms
  5. 'Think of the patients!' cry warring EMA-host cities
  6. In Iceland: Europe woos Arctic allies
  7. Austrian voters reject liberal pro-EU status quo
  8. Turkey urges EU not to break off ties