Friday

23rd Oct 2020

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.

Polish court effectively bans legal abortions

The human rights commissioner of the Council of Europe said the ruling marked a "sad day for women's rights", adding that more women will seek abortions underground and abroad.

Visual Data

Coronavirus: Will a second wave divide Europe again?

Experts are now warning of the "very serious" surge in Covid-19 cases in Europe - where new weekly cases exceede those reported in March. The worst-hit countries are Spain and France - while Italy is resisting the much-feared second wave.

EU to have first-ever anti-racism coordinator

The European Commission is set to unveil an action plan to fight racism - which will address gaps in existing legislation and extend the list of EU crimes to all forms of hate crime and hate speech.

News in Brief

  1. UK scientists fear Brexit blow to joint EU research
  2. Greek migrant camp lockdown extended
  3. Lukashenko and 14 others in EU crosshairs
  4. EU imposes sanctions over 2015 Bundestag cyberattack
  5. Italy reignites Mont Blanc border dispute with France
  6. Commission to press Croatia on migrant 'abuse' at border
  7. Belarus opposition awarded 2020 Sakharov Prize
  8. Belgium's foreign minister in intensive care for Covid-19

Coronavirus

EU tries to avoid lockdowns as global death toll reaches 1m

Several member states are putting forward restrictive Covid-19-related measures to try to control the surge of numbers of coronavirus cases, trying to avoid a second lockdown. Meanwhile, the global death toll from the novel coronavirus has reached one million.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAMaking healthier diets the easy choice
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersUN Secretary General to meet with Nordic Council on COVID-19
  3. UNESDAWell-designed Deposit Return Schemes can help reach Single-Use Plastics Directive targets
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council meets Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaja
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to invest DKK 250 million in green digitalised business sector
  6. UNESDAReducing packaging waste – a huge opportunity for circularity

Latest News

  1. South Caucasus death toll much worse than feared
  2. Polish court effectively bans legal abortions
  3. MEPs urge EU to be ready to dump disputed energy treaty
  4. EU commission on defensive over 'revolving doors'
  5. Why German presidency is wrong on rule of law
  6. Nato and EU silent on Turkey, despite Armenia's appeal
  7. EU tells UK to decide on Brexit as deal 'within reach'
  8. EU farming deal attacked by Green groups

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us