The International Tobacco Growers Association (ITGA) has reiterated its objections to what it calls the worrying developments surrounding the EU’s revised Tobacco Products Directive (TPD), which came into force on May 20.
After the publication of the directive, it said, some EU member states were proposing to introduce standardized packaging, which was a development too far given the mandatory checks the EU still had to perform, first with its own treaty and second with international trade rules, including those of the World Trade Organization.
The ITGA said it would remain vigilant also in respect of secondary legislation, which included a stricter regulation of ingredients. The association added that it wanted to make sure no extreme measures were taken that might discriminate against certain tobacco varieties.
Despite previous assurances by the EU Commission and Parliament that the TPD would not lead to a deterioration in the living conditions of people whose livelihoods depended on tobacco growing in Europe, the current proposals would do exactly that, the association believes.
ITGA President Francois van der Merwe said there was currently a chance to appeal to the Dialogue Groups on agriculture (DG-AGRI) to raise tobacco producers’ concerns at the sixth Conference of the Parties (COP6) of the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in Moscow later this year. “[The] ITGA calls on the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States Council of Ministers to take this opportunity to remind the EU that the TPD should not become a technical barrier to trade,” he said.
Van der Merwe said the revised proposals were a declaration of an “out and out war” against the tobacco industry. These measures would contradict the so-called “public health” issues they were supposed to support because they would encourage contraband and counterfeit products made from cheap, suspect-quality tobacco that did not meet the health and environmental norms of many countries, inside and outside the EU.
Van der Merwe believes that pack standardization will have far-reaching negative consequences. Pack standardization measures would serve only to worsen the already rampant global problem of counterfeiting and piracy of tobacco products, he said. And it would trigger a price war between manufacturers as they attempted to distinguish themselves from their competitors, with the major casualties being tobacco growers.
Any reduction in leaf production, which would happen if the revised TPD proposals were pushed through, would have a significant knock-on effect, especially in the developing world, said Van der Merwe. In Malawi, for example, more than 1.9 million families were employed in the tobacco sector, which meant that about 70 percent of the adult population of the country was dependent on leaf tobacco production and the associated activities down the line. Tobacco made up 53 percent of Malawi’s exports and 15 percent of its GDP.
The ITGA said it strongly condemned current attempts to impose standardization on tobacco products as blatantly unacceptable discrimination imposed by misguided public health officials within the EU and some of the African, Caribbean and Pacific group of states.