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New health warning over tobacco policy

Friday, 26 October 2012

Further delay to revised EU Tobacco Products Directive “will raise serious questions about whose interest the EU Commission is promoting”

The EU’s revised Tobacco Products Directive – which was set to place substantial new restrictions on tobacco companies’ promotion of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco, including banning electronic cigarettes – is dangerously close to stalling, according to health experts.

Writing in The Lancet, Martin McKee, Professor of European Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said “further delay will raise serious questions about whose interest the EU Commission is promoting”.

The Comment, co-authored with Paul Belcher, Senior EU Government Affairs Advisor at the Royal College of Physicians and Monika Kosinska, Secretary General of the European Public Health Alliance, follows the resignation of John Dalli from his post as EU Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy.

Mr Dalli’s controversial resignation, as a result of allegations of financial impropriety involving tobacco companies, has led to the revised Tobacco Directive being put on hold, despite the fact that the text has been cleared, administratively and legally, to progress to the next stage of implementation.  

Two days later, the offices of anti-tobacco campaigners in Brussels appear to have been subject to a sophisticated burglary, in which laptops and documents were stolen, but other valuables left untouched.

According to Professor McKee, these events have “set alarm bells ringing.”

“While the truth about these events will emerge eventually, it may be too late for the revised Tobacco Products Directive,” he said. “Yet there is no reason why this should be so. The only beneficiaries of delay are the tobacco companies.”

Mr Belcher said: “The current situation is undermining both citizens’ confidence in EU decision making as well as public health efforts to combat the scourge of tobacco.”

Notes to Editors:

For interviews with Professor Martin McKee, please contact the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine press office on 020 7927 2802 or email paula.fentiman@lshtm.ac.uk

The EU Tobacco Products Directive must not be derailed. Martin McKee, Paul Belcher, Monika Kosinska. The Lancet http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2812%2961774-7/fulltext

Image: Cigarettes in ash tray. Credit: iStockphoto.com/Professor25

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