With smoking prematurely killing almost a quarter million Europeans a year, cigarettes are the top cause of preventable death in the EU. The fight against smoking is a priority and revision of the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) has potential to save lives. However, the process that brought us to this point has been a tragedy of errors and the TPD does more harm than good.

The TPD continues the EU-wide ban on snus, the least harmful form of tobacco. As a result, European smokers outside of Sweden are denied the dramatically lower and well-documented tobacco-related disease rates for Swedes, where snus is popular.

As usual, bad policy is often preceded by flawed process. It isn't just Dalli gate'. That case was just a symptom of the broader lack of transparency and betrayal of regulatory procedures meant to ensure sensible policy making that benefits citizens.

Central elements of the consultation process have been disregarded in a rush to produce a directive that blindly punishes tobacco users, rather than achieves the more nuanced goal of improving health.

The proposal relies on cherry-picked conclusions from the expert consultation summary, rather than the actual scientific findings. For instance, the 2008 report concluded that while complete tobacco abstinence is best, pragmatically, "substitution of snus for smoking may be beneficial to individual and public health". Instead, the Commission simplistically concluded that snus is not 100% safe and should thus be banned. The report also found snus use in Sweden is not a significant predictor of future smoking. Yet the proposal justifies a ban based on the unsupported hypothesis that snus is a gateway to smoking.

The DG received over 85,000 comments, more than in any other consultation. According the the DG's analysis, a "vast majority" wanted to see the ban lifted, EU-wide," and "several respondents were concerned that the Commission's approach was too simplistic and overstated". Commenters pointed to the scientific evidence that showed that "smokeless products were much healthier alternatives to smoking".

Yet, instead of taking into account the overwhelming response, the DG delegitimised public opposition, painting comments as the result of citizen "mobilisation campaigns" organised by tobacconists. You've got to ask yourself: if pro-ban activists had been effective at encouraging the opposite response, and in such strong numbers, would the DG have treated that exercise in democracy as...

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