In their deliberations over the EU’s proposed new Tobacco Products Directive, the various participants in this debate seem intent on falling into the trap of the committee that sets out to design a horse, which should be fine for those who like camels.
According to a story by Dave Keating for the European Voice, EU member states and members of the European Parliament are on a collision course. “On Friday (June 21), health ministers voted to slightly water down the European Commission’s proposal on tobacco rules,” Keating wrote. ‘”But MEPs want tougher rules that go further than the commission’s proposal.”
In fact, all sides seem bent on tinkering with the commission’s proposal. Ministers removed from the proposal a ban on slim cigarettes but said these products should be sold in regular-sized packs. And while they backed a proposal for large graphic warnings, they wanted them to take up less pack space (65 percent) than the commission had proposed (75 percent).
The compromises were apparently made to ease the concerns of central and eastern European member states that believe the commission’s proposals would harm their economies. But the ministers’ amendments failed to satisfy Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Poland and Romania, which voted against the council’s position.
Some MEPs, on the other hand, want tougher rules, with at least one demanding the introduction of standardized packs without logos or trademarks.
Four parliamentary committees want the bans on menthol and slim products expunged from the TPD revisions, but the environment and health committee, which is due to vote on July 10, is likely to take a stronger line.
In so far as the TPD revisions are meant to help protect the health of tobacco consumers, the real damage could be done by attacks on electronic cigarettes, which comprise the product with the most potential to help smokers quit their tobacco habit.
A plenary session of parliament is scheduled to vote on the TPD revisions during the first half of September.