Monday

20th May 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.

EU parliament backs whistleblower law

MEPs backed an EU law to protect whistleblowers from retaliation in both the public and private sectors. EU states will have two years to transpose the directive.

News in Brief

  1. EU flies rainbow flag on anti-homophobia day
  2. EU to freeze money and visas of foreign cyber-attackers
  3. EU reassures US on arms sales
  4. Use euros over dollars in energy contracts, France says
  5. UK cross-party Brexit talks collapse
  6. Climate activists occupy German-Russian gas pipeline
  7. Farage got €515,000 of private perks
  8. French EU commissioner urges Italy not to overspend

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. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  3. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  8. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  9. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  10. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  11. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us