Sunday

1st Aug 2021

Tobacco firms under fire for EU lobbying

  • Andriukaitis and Chan warned that Greece is more tobacco friendly (Photo: microturbian)

Lobbying by companies such as Philip Morris risks harming the EU's new anti-tobacco law, senior policy makers have said.

Lithuania's health minister, Vytenis Andriukaitis, in charge of steering the bill through the EU institutions under his country's EU presidency, rang the alarm bell at a press conference in Vilnius on Wednesday (11 September).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

He noted that MEPs recently postponed a vote on the law from this week until October, making it harder for Lithuania to clinch a final agreement before its EU chairmanship ends in December.

"This was [due to] direct meetings between hired lobbyists and certain MEPs. As many as 233 meetings with tobacco industry lobbyists were organised in the past 17 months. Around 31 percent of members of the parliament were affected by lobbyists in one or another way,” he said.

He noted the lobbying effort was directed at MEPs from tobacco-growing southern countries.

He said the delay "is a big breakthrough" for the tobacco sector because the Greek EU presidency, which takes over in January and which is more tobacco friendly, might inherit the file.

Speaking at a separate event in New Delhi, India, also on Wednesday, the head of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Margaret Chan, voiced similar concerns.

Chan spoke of a "massive army" of lobbyists which is fighting WHO policy around the world, AFP reports.

"The most recent example concerns efforts on the part of [tobacco firm] Philip Morris to sabotage the vote on a strong European directive on tobacco," she said at a forum organised by an Indian NGO, the Public Health Foundation of India.

She added that Greece' integrity is at stake because Philip Morris is currently opening a new distribution facility in the cash-strapped country.

"Here industry is counting on the historical pattern where economic and commercial interests trump public health concerns," Chan said.

The EU's revised tobacco products directive (TPD) aims to ban flavoured and slim cigarettes and to impose stricter rules for health warnings on packaging, among other measures.

British weekly The Observer on Sunday reported that Philip Morris has hired 161 people in Brussels and spent millions of euros trying to fight the bill.

Previous research by Corporate Europe Observatory, a Brussels-based NGO, found that nine tobacco firms, 22 tobacco industry lobby groups and 12 PR firms are involved in the wrecking campaign.

The TPD was already delayed due to a scandal surrounding former EU health commissioner John Dalli.

Dalli, who drafted the bill, last year lost his post amid allegations that he solicited a bribe from a Swedish tobacco firm.

He denied the accusations and was later cleared by Maltese police.

He said the affair was orchestrated by the tobacco sector in order to buy time.

Tobacco lobbying derails MEP vote

Intense tobacco lobbying in Brussels may have derailed a key vote among Euro-deputies to restrict the sale and distribution of the product.

EU tobacco lobbying is 'David vs. Goliath'

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

MEPs approve disputed tobacco law

The EU parliament has backed rules to tighten marketing and labelling of tobacco products, but the original proposal was weakened.

Opinion

Crunch time for EU lobby register

The EU lobby register is voluntary meaning it is filled with gaps and inaccuracies. The current review ought to change this.

News in Brief

  1. Officials worried at infection-surge on Greek holiday islands
  2. EU calls on online platforms to tackle vaccine hesitancy
  3. Russia accused of falling short on Sputnik V deliveries
  4. France: UK quarantine rules 'discriminatory'
  5. Italy's government reaches deal on judicial reform
  6. EU adopts guidelines to 'climate-proof' infrastructure projects
  7. US backs WHO plan for further Covid-origin investigation
  8. EU to buy 220,000 supplies of potential Covid treatment

Opinion

Sweden's non-lockdown didn't work - why not?

The Swedish king would have been better advised to use his annual Christmas interview to call for unity of purpose and shed light on the political roots of the country's response.

Column

BioNTech: Stop talking about their 'migration background'

I understand that the German-Turkish community - often subjected to condescension in Germany - celebrated the story. Uğur Şahin and Özlem Türecki represent scientific excellence and business success at the highest level.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. Malta responsible for journalist's death, inquiry finds
  2. Can Greece work with Biden to solve the West Balkans impasse?
  3. EU and UK frustrated at US travel ban extension
  4. Polish judges rally behind EU court ruling
  5. Why 'Fit for 55' isn't fit for purpose
  6. EU hits vaccination target, as Delta variant now dominates
  7. European arms 'displaced over a million people', research finds
  8. Brexit: what is the 'Lugano Convention' and does it matter?

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us