The following is a short but important update for those following the additions to the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD). Below is a statement provided to me by EU Commission spokesperson Anca Paduraru:
“Member States voted and our experts are currently finalising and translating the draft acts before making them available.
On 29 November, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis said: ‘I welcome the favourable opinion by Member States on the Commission’s proposal to set up a tracking and tracing system for tobacco products, as required by the Tobacco Products Directive. This system is essential to ensure that tobacco sold in the EU complies with our rules to protect citizens’ health and to combat illicit trade, which is responsible for billions of euros in tax revenue losses for EU countries every year.
This favourable opinion is excellent news for European citizens; and for the European Union, which is now on track to fulfil its international obligations under the FCTC Protocol.
Tobacco industry causes by itself 700 000 premature deaths every year. It is the single largest cause of avoidable deaths in the EU. Unfortunately no headlines and no petitions on banning tobacco though it causes cancer every day’.
The favourable opinion was given by the Member States (members of the Tobacco Products Committee) on the draft acts on the establishment of EU systems of traceability and security features (following the closure of the written procedure on 29 November), which are required under Articles 15 & 16 of the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD).
A timely adoption of the acts is now expected (by the end of the year). This will allow 16 months for technical preparations by the relevant industry sectors.
This is very good news for the EU, which is now on track to meet its obligations under the TPD and to fulfil its international obligations under the FCTC Protocol. This is also excellent news for the protection of public health and European citizens.”
Despite the Commissions positive spin on this progress, the final wording has yet to be released and in something as technical as the TPD the devil is in the details. Anca and other anonymous sources from within the commission have confirmed to me that article 35, which addresses how a provider cannot be tied to big tobacco, has been greatly strengthened. Strengthening Article 35 will hopefully prevent Inexto and Codentify from being the direct provider which would of course make the whole TPD pointless.
There are however serious lingering concerns. The originally published text contains key concessions that I have not addressed directly but that have been covered widely by other leading tobacco control organisations and activists. I am deeply concerned that these concessions remain. the most paramount of which is the ability for big tobacco itself to print their own security features. If this remains it could make the independence clause useless as big tobacco would directly control the most important point of the process meant to prevent them from cheating.
It will likely be left up to brave European Parliament Members to make a last stand to save this important directive from undermining itself and setting a bad global precedent. Many tobacco control activists have reached out to me with deep concerns about what this precedent could mean in their countries as they try and seek to fulfill the important guidelines set out by the World Health Organisations FCTC.