Saturday

17th Apr 2021

Belgian judge seeks EU-wide ban on cigarette sales

  • Fancy a smoke? Mr Hubaux says smoking will kill more people than World War II by 2050 (Photo: lanier67)

The EU court in Luxembourg has lodged two anti-smoking cases which could, in theory, lead to a ban on the sale of tobacco products across the EU.

The two complaints, entitled "Rossius C267/10" and "Collard C268/10," lodged in Luxembourg on 28 May, call for the EU to ban the sale of cigarettes and the collection of excise duties on tobacco products in Belgium.

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

They also ask the court to examine if the sale of tobacco products goes against the Lisbon Treaty, the Charter of Fundamental Rights and the UN's 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Baudouin Hubaux, a Belgian anti-smoking campaigner and a judge at the regional court in Namur, Belgium, who referred the cases to Luxembourg, told Belgian press the best outcome would be for the court to ban cigarettes across the union or, at the least, to set out the financial liability of tobacco companies for damages to people's health.

Mr Hubaux' statement of reasoning, as submitted to Luxembourg, was published in the Belgian daily, La Derniere Heure, on 3 June.

"Future historians who will explore the 20th century will surely be surprised at the timidity of measures against smoking," it says. "If we fail to reduce consumption, smoking will kill 520 million people worldwide between 1950 and 2050, 10 times more than the Second World War."

The EU tribunal will now consider whether the case is admissible. If it goes ahead, the court will appoint a rapporteur and advocate general and table hearings leading to a judgment some 17 months down the line.

The Lisbon Treaty recently clarified existing case law that the EU court has primacy over member states' legislation.

The Brussels-based lobby firm, EUK Consulting, said its client, British American Tobacco (BAT), is "urgently" looking into the case but is unwilling to make a statement based on media reports only.

Another Brussels-based lobbying outfit, BXL Consulting, reacted negatively.

"It's much more complex than just to expect that a ban would materialise and be implemented and would not on the other hand contribute to illegal trafficking, production and so on. Such a measure does not have a chance to succeed," the firm's founder, Pavel Telicka, told this website.

Mr Telicka, the Czech republic's former EU health commissioner, pointed out that BXL Consulting does not represent BAT, but said that he has in the recent past "mediated and facilitated a dialogue between BAT and stakeholders, including the [EU] institutions."

BAT itself has a large office in Brussels.

A senior contact at a major Brussels-based PR firm told this website that tobacco sector lobbying is part of normal life in Brussels, but is a more sensitive matter in Luxembourg.

"The rule is to avoid being perceived by the Court as 'wanting to use the court of public opinion' instead of their sacred office," the PR contact said. "'Strategic communication' is employed, with the objective of never bothering the Court actually. It is very hard to achieve. One way is to get credible third-parties to discuss your case in a variety of countries, media and events."

The EU commission, which has in the past launched a number of soft anti-smoking initiatives, such as a ban on advertising, estimates that smoking costs the EU economy €2.5 billion a year in terms of healthcare and productivity losses and brings in €67 billion a year in terms of tobacco industry revenue.

MEPs call for workers to have 'right to disconnect'

MEPs called for a new law guaranteeing workers can 'disconnect' outside work hours, without repercussion. But they also passed a last-minute amendment, calling on the commission to delay any legislation for three years.

EU rolls out vaccine, as UK-variant spreads

Most EU member states began rolling out the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against Covid-19 on Sunday, as a more contagious variant from the UK begins to spread on the continent.

News in Brief

  1. EU postpones decision on labelling gas 'sustainable'
  2. MEPs call for mass surveillance ban in EU public spaces
  3. Greek and Turkish ministers trade jibes in Ankara
  4. Biden repeats opposition to Russia-Germany pipeline
  5. Navalny in danger, letter warns EU foreign ministers
  6. Lithuania keen to use Denmark's AstraZeneca vaccines
  7. Gas plants largest source of power-sector emissions
  8. Study: Higher risk of blood clots from Covid than vaccines

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 MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market

Latest News

  1. US rejects Slovenia-linked plan to break up Bosnia
  2. Ukraine urges Borrell to visit Russia front line
  3. Could US sanctions hit Russia vaccine sales to EU?
  4. Polish court pushes out critical ombudsman
  5. Political crises in Romania and Bulgaria amid third wave
  6. Von der Leyen's summer plans undisclosed, after Ukraine snub
  7. Over a million EU citizens back farm-animal cage ban
  8. Three options for West on Putin's Ukraine build-up

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us