Parliament vote on new tobacco legislation postponed

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A crucial vote in the European Parliament on a revision of the EU's legislation on tobacco products, which was planned for next week, has been postponed following a decision by the Parliament's political group leaders, triggering angry reactions from the Greens.

The leaders of the main centre-right political groups in the Parliament, the European People's Party (EPP), the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) and the European Conservatives and Reformist Group (ECR) have colluded to postpone the vote on the EU tobacco directive.

The vote was previously scheduled for 10 September.

However, the Greens hit out at the decision with co-president Rebecca Harms saying that the centre-right political groups had "shamelessly" done the bidding of the tobacco industry.

"This is a cynical exercise designed to buy time for the tobacco lobby, with a view to watering down the draft legislation. This is all the more outrageous as it was the European Parliament that had pushed the Commission to deliver the proposal as soon as possible," Harms said.

As the timetable in the Parliament was agreed amongst all groups at the beginning of the year and Council already adopted a general approach in June, delaying the process now, according to harms, is nothing but a desperate attempt to undermine the strong position adopted by the public health committee.

"It is scandalous that the centre-right in this house seems to be more concerned about the profits of the tobacco industry than public health," the Green's co-president continued.

Fairer rules

On 8 October, the Parliament will vote on whether a pictorial health warning covering 75% of a cigarette package, front and back, should be mandatory across the EU. Euro MPs will also consider regulating the increasingly popular e-cigarettes and banning slim cigarettes aimed at young women.

British MEP from Britain Marina Yannakoudakis, who sits on the ECR group, tweeted that she was happy about the vote being postponed, saying: "We need fair rules for e-cigarettes."

The tobacco industry, which employs over 100 full-time lobbyists in Brussels, has been waging an intense campaign in the Parliament throughout the year. MEPs have previously complained that they have received dozens of e-mails, letters and brochures.

The first tobacco control legislation in the EU was introduced in the 1980s. Since then, EU legislation and policy has been further developed in the areas of product regulation, advertising and protecting people from second-hand smoke, as well as prevention.

Health Commissioner Tonio Borg is set to widen the scope of cigarette-trading rules to cover potentially harmful electronic cigarettes, flavourings and marketing strategies potentially including plain packaging – as part of a revision of the 2001 Tobacco Products Directive.

  • 8 Oct.: Parliament to vote on revised tobacco legislation.

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