The European Commission seems to have missed an opportunity to reassure EU oriental tobacco growers about whether or not they will be allowed to continue to grow oriental tobacco.
In September, the Bulgarian Ministry of Agriculture warned that the Commission, with its proposed revision of the tobacco products directive, intended to ban the use and production of oriental tobacco within the EU.
The ministry’s warning was widely reported but it was generally thought that there was no direct threat of a ban on oriental production.
The misunderstanding arose apparently because oriental tobacco is an aromatic tobacco and the Commission was known to be considering proposing revisions to the EU’s tobacco products directive that would see a ban on the addition of certain ingredients, including aromatic ingredients – basically flavors.
So there was a theoretical threat that in the case that all cigarette ingredients were banned in the EU, it might become impossible to manufacture acceptable American-blend cigarettes in the EU and, therefore, that demand for licit versions of these products, which include oriental, would disappear within the EU.
Unfortunately, according to a Bulgarian National Radio report, also in September, Frederic Vincent, spokesperson for the then Commissioner for health and consumer policy, failed to close the door on the issue when he said that ‘currently’ the Commission was not planning to examine the ‘issue’ of oriental tobacco.
And earlier this month, the Commission had an opportunity to clear up this matter without divulging its directive revisions by answering the first of three written questions posed by Antonyia Parvanova and Stanimir Ilchev, both Bulgarian representatives in the European Parliament:
1 ‘Has the Commission officially communicated to the Member States an intention to ban the use and production of oriental tobacco in the EU?
2. ‘Could the Commission clarify whether an EU ban on the use and production of oriental tobacco is currently considered as one of the provisions in its future proposal to revise the Tobacco Products Directive?
3. ‘In the view of the Commission, would a ban on plant production and cultivation fall within the scope of its future proposal to revise the Tobacco Products Directive?’
But the Commission’s reply seems bound to leave doubt in the minds of some:
‘The Commission is aware of the media reports inBulgariarelating to the upcoming revision of the Tobacco Products Directive,’ it replied.
‘The Commission is preparing the impact assessment preceding any legislative proposal. The purpose of this impact assessment is to identify the economic, social (including employment) and environmental impacts of any new measure on all potential stakeholders concerned. The concerns put forward by tobacco growers that certain measures could discriminate against certain types of tobacco as some additives are essential for restoring the palatability of American blended tobacco, were carefully considered in this respect.
‘At this stage, no final decision has been made on the content of the proposal.’