Angry tobacco industry asks Andriukaitis for ‘transparent dialogue’

Illicit whites seized at the Polish border. [Sarantis Michalopoulos]

The tobacco industry is fuming at EU Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis following his statement that manufacturers are “silent” over illicit trade.

EURACTIV.com has learnt that the Confederation of European Community Cigarette Manufacturers sent a letter last week to Andriukaitis, claiming that the industry “takes allegations of involvement in criminal activity extremely seriously”.

The tobacco manufacturers noted there was a need for an “open and transparent exchange” of views directly with them in order for the Commission to make a “sound judgment of our actions”.

The letter came as a response to a recent EU health chief’s interview with EURACTIV, in which he wondered why the tobacco industry had not been more active in fighting the illicit tobacco trade.

“Look around you in Paris’ railway stations. Smuggling is here, and who is the producer? I don’t hear the tobacco industry being against smuggling. Why? Because it is a network of interest, production and distribution,” Andriukaitis emphasised.

Asked why he believed the industry is not outspoken on the issue, he replied, “I don’t know why, but why are they so silent? Because it would be in their interest to speak against it! But I have never heard this debate. If you were a transparent industry, you would be very much interested in ratifying the illicit trade protocol.”

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Japan Tobacco International, a global tobacco company, also reacted, saying that his “misleading comments only go to demonstrate how far removed he is from the reality of regulating a legal sector”.

Lack of general understanding

Referring to the Commissioner’s comments on the executive’s proposed track and trace system, the industry said he lacked understanding of the tobacco supply chain.

“We make no secret of our deep reservations about the system’s workability and cost. Indeed, the entire supply chain made these points abundantly clear in the recent public consultation .[…] If the Commission has met opposition to its plans at member state level, this is not because of some alleged conspiracy, rather, it is a reflection of the overly burdensome administrative track and trace system that has already taken three years and eight months to define, leaving an impossible 17 months to implement.”

Sources told EURACTIV that the European Commission consulted all stakeholders as appropriate in the preparation of the legal acts on tracking and tracing of tobacco products, in accordance with article 5.3 of the UN’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and of its guidelines.

“Parties should interact with the tobacco industry only when and to the extent strictly necessary to enable them to effectively regulate the tobacco industry and tobacco products,” the article reads.

EU health boss Andriukaitis ‘does not listen’

EU Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis and his services have systematically refused meaningful dialogue and appropriate consultations, Peter van der Mark writes in reaction to an interview published on EURACTIV.com