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« Tobacco tax up again | Main | More evidence of smoking rooms in Brussels »

Notes from the European Parliament

Here I am in one of the many meeting rooms at the European Parliament building in Brussels.

The picture was taken yesterday following a meeting convened and chaired by Linda McAvan, Labour MEP for Yorkshire and The Humber, who works on the The Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI).

It was described as a "meeting with representatives of stakeholders in the tobacco products supply chain" and we were there to discuss the Tobacco Products Directive.

I was representing Forest which represents the consumer. Other stakeholders included tobacco companies, tobacco farmers, packaging and flavouring companies, wholesalers, cigar manufacturers and the smokeless tobacco industry.

The agenda was set by McAvan who split the meeting into four sections: ingredients, labelling and packaging, oral tobacco, and any other issues.

Very few MEPs took the trouble to come and hear our concerns. I counted seven in addition to McAvan, although several more sent their researchers. (You can't tell from the picture above but the room was pretty full during the meeting.)

There were several tell-tale moments. At the very beginning McAvan – who was chairing the meeting, remember – declared her support for TPD2. I respect her honesty but you can see why we were concerned we might not get a fair hearing.

Sinn Fein MEP Martina Anderson later observed that we should "remember the 80 people who have died [from smoking] while we've been in this room and all the people who will die today".

Another MEP said she was "fighting for health". The European Parliament, we were told, speaks for the 700,000 people who die each year from smoking-related diseases in the EU.

To be fair, McEvan was very competent and professional. She had clearly read the TPD proposal, unlike one or two of her colleagues.

The problem was that although every stakeholder had a chance to speak, we were each restricted to three or four minutes to comment on a 70-page proposal.

To the best of my knowledge there will be no further meetings that will allow any of us to question or challenge some of the more prohibitive measures.

Sadly, that's how the European Parliament works.

Later in the day representatives of the electronic cigarette industry had their own meeting with Linda McAvan.

Aside from our own concerns, it will be interesting to see how the European Parliament handles that particular potato.

Watch this space.

Update: See Selecting the Evidence to Fit the Policy: An Evaluation of the Department of Health's Consultation on Standardised Tobacco Packaging.

To download the report click here. Guido Fawkes had the story yesterday: Policy wonk burns misleading plain packaging consultation.

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Reader Comments (3)

"Very few MEPs took the trouble to come and hear our concerns"

It would be good to know which MEPs did turn up Simon - So many brag about being on our side or at least listening to us - name and shame would be good?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013 at 10:02 | Unregistered CommenterPeter Thurgood

The Danes and Italians and probably the Dutch will reject the Tobacco Directive.

If greater control is going ahead it is going to be hard to get agreement.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013 at 10:33 | Unregistered CommenterDave Atherton

E-cig reps are not our friends and care only about their own vested interests. They will work against us because they depend upon hate and denormalisation of the smoker to sell their product.

As we heard from Guido yesterday, it doesn't matter what the public thinks. These anti-smoker hysteric politicians lie and don't care what we think either.

The Tory led coalition is set to deliberately put 80,000 people out work in this country and pave the way for illegal tobacco to hit our estates because Australia demands we have plain packaging and has planted its own tobacco control activist into our DH to ensure it gets it.

As Junican has said many times, it isn't about the packaging. Those who despise us want to control the size and contents of tobacco to contaminate the taste.

More votes to UKIP then - the only party that took part in the consultation to say it was against plain packaging. The Tories obviously never want to win another election again or they would not alienate the majority on behalf of a small minority. And we are certainly better off out of the EU when MEPs can't even be bothered to turn up for very important meetings that affect millions of their constituents.

The majority of the British public are not prepared to put up with the deliberate destruction of UK based industries to support the ideological nonsense of bigots, thugs, hysterics and phobics.

It's also concerning that in a time of austerity and cut backs, the DH can waste millions of our cash on a fake consultation exercise. I'll bet the parents whose kids are dying every day because of the closure of heart hospitals and cancer wards to save cash the DH says we haven't got, will be really pleased that phantom children, who don't exist except in the minds of well paid anti-smokers, have been saved instead.

It stinks.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013 at 11:41 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

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