HEALTH/CONSUMERS : TOBACCO DIRECTIVE: RACE AGAINST CLOCK.

 
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Discussions on revision of the Tobacco Directive are off to a flying start. Two months after the European Commission presented its draft, the subject has already been discussed three times in the Council and the Irish Presidency has already planned another ten meetings. The same goes for Parliament: Socialist rapporteur Linda McAvan (UK) said at a public hearing, on 25 February, that she would present her report in March with a view to securing EP adoption next autumn.

The Commission presented, on 19 December 2012, a draft directive amending Directive 2001/37/EC on the manufacture, presentation and sale of tobacco products. Its key measures include a ban on long and menthol cigarettes, and tighter regulation of electronic cigarettes and package appearance. Since then, the EU institutions have launched a race against the clock. Proponents of the proposal want to wrap up the work before the parliamentary elections in 2014, which would further delay revision of the directive. But the recent public hearings showed that positions vary widely in the institutions.

POLAND ON FRONT LINE

At the 19 February Competitiveness Council, the Polish delegation drew the ministers' attention to the proposal's potential consequences on economic operators. It called for a debate on this question "in the near future," with special attention given to the impact on member states, tobacco growing and/or processing regions and the European industry as a whole. Warsaw is particularly concerned about the provisions on long and menthol cigarettes.

At the European Parliament's public hearing, on 25 February, Irish Health Minister James Reilly declared: "There are many ways to create economic activity other than tobacco. It will take time to implement the directive, which will give everyone the chance to adapt". He added: "My policy is to minimise tobacco consumption. This directive is a compromise. For me and for many others, it does not go far enough".

The Irish Presidency has already held three working meetings and tackled some of the most important measures, namely characterising flavours, health warnings and long cigarettes. The next meeting (out of ten to come) was to be held on 12 March and was to focus on traceability and security features (Article 14), tobacco for oral use (Article 15), cross-border distance sales of tobacco (Article 16) and novel tobacco products (Chapter 5). The draft text was also discussed indirectly at the informal meeting of health...

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