Anger over tobacco lobbyists as Europe nears new rules on e-cigarettes

Anger over tobacco lobbyists as Europe nears new rules on e-cigarettes
By Euronews
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A new Tobacco Products Directive has been adopted by the European Parliament Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety.

There were 50 votes in favour, 13 against and 8 abstentions. The plenary vote will occur in September 2013. This updated piece of legislation aims to help smokers quit and prevent young people from picking up the habit, which kills about 700,000 Europeans each year.

The new Tobacco Products Directive will regulate cigarette packaging, covering 75 percent of the front and the back with graphic images and 50 percent of the side with written health warnings. It will also minimise the pack sizes to 20 cigarettes or 40 g for tobacco and regulate the pack to only allow flip-top lids. The minimum cigarette diameter will be 7.5 mm, banning the slim cigarette, and promoting flavour will be banned, including menthol. The new directive will also regulate internet sales and electronic cigarettes, classifying them as medicinal in the European Union. This last decision has provoked a storm of activity on social networking sites with many people claiming that pharmaceutical and tobacco lobbyists have influenced this decision which will, they say, hinder the access to electronic cigarettes which may only be purchased in accredited pharmacies.

E-cigs. We got beat 45-25 in committee, but that's 25 more that would have been got 6 months ago. Momentum is with us. #e-cigs

— Chris Davies (@ChrisDaviesMEP) July 10, 2013

This new revision has been contested by tobacco lobbyists whose companies might be affected by such changes. Before to the vote, tobacco lobbyists were reported to have tried influencing Members of the European Parliament (MEPs). The Corporate Europe Observatory detailed how tobacco lobbyist have been sending gifts, such as e-cigarettes and invitations to drinks and dinners in order to sway MEPs.

“On a scale of 1 to 10, they are 11… They’re lobbying us to death,” said a political advisor to the Corporate Europe Observatory.

The lobbying goes against a World Health Organization’s law from 2005 that bans the tobacco industry from interacting with public-health policy makers. An investigation by the Corporate Europe Observatory discovered there are 97 full time tobacco lobbyists in Brussels with an annual budget of around 5.3 million euros, outnumbering those lobbying on tobacco regulation from a public health perspective.

Press release from the the European Parliament Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety

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