A planned review of the European Union Tobacco Products Directive will proceed once a replacement has been found for Health Commissioner John Dalli, said EU spokeswoman Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen on Oct. 17. Dalli resigned following an investigation of a complaint by Swedish Match made in May.
The EU anti-fraud office, OLAF, found evidence that Dalli knew a “person close to him” was requesting a “substantial” sum of money from Swedish Match in return for seeking to influence the future legislative proposal removing or softening the existing ban on snus in the EU.
Dalli denies the claims and says he resigned to give himself “a free hand in opposing the allegations.” He also plans legal action to clear his name.
Malta Today identified the person who approached Swedish Match as Silvio Zammit, a well-known Maltese entrepreneur and councilor for the city of Sliema. Zammit resigned from the council five hours after the announcement of Dalli’s resignation.
Swedish Match said it takes the incident very seriously and expects the European Commission will “ensure a transparent and legally fair process for the proposal of a new Tobacco Products Directive, which is expected during the autumn.”
The company said it expects the available scientific evidence on the significantly lower health risks of snus compared with cigarettes to be considered in the review process.
Commenting on the investigation, a spokesman for the Union of Tobacco Growers in Europe called on the commission to abandon the proposals developed by Dalli and begin again with a fair and transparent process that results in tobacco regulations that will both protect a public health and tobacco farmers’ jobs.