Nessa Childers, MEP for Dublin, welcomed today’s vote in the European Parliament to demand the discontinuation of an agreement between the European Union and Philip Morris International on cigarette smuggling and counterfeiting.
Ms. Childers, a Member of Parliament’s Environment and Public Health Committee and a vocal opponent of big tobacco’s lobbying activities to the detriment of EU’s public health policies, had recently seen the same position unanimously approved in a text she steered for that committee.
Speaking from Strasbourg in reaction to this afternoon’s vote, Ms. Childers said:
“This is a positive signal. It is heartening to see a majority of Parliament see past big tobacco’s well-endowed lobby tactics, that this deal has become a travesty.
“This agreement was born out of an out-of-court settlement between the EU and big tobacco, over a decade ago, when this industry was taken to the dock for its own links to smuggling, money laundering and organised crime.
“This most awkward, smoke-stained expedient has long become obsolete and a source of chicanery on the part of big tobacco, who now hail it as part of their corporate social responsibility schemes.
“Moreover, as the Commission contemplates a possible extension of the deal, we are facing litigious retaliation from Philip Morris itself, with an EU Court challenge against the EU’s hard-won review of the Tobacco Products Directive.
“The Directive would provide part of the solution, together with a World Health Organisation protocol to fight illicit trade of tobacco products, so I find it astonishing that the Commission maintains contact with its legal adversary on this very topic.
“I personally know of, and believe in, the Commissioner for Health’s commitment to fight the scourge of an industry whose product kills its customers when used according to the manufacturer’s indications, but I very much fear that the officialdom in charge of trade policy will once again win the day.
“With the current state of affairs, Member States and the Commission have effectively outsourced key aspects smuggling and counterfeiting customs control to the industry itself, as part of a legal settlement over its misdemeanours, without subjecting the industry’s findings, which match its vested interests, to independent laboratory assessment.
“It’s time for public bodies to be put back in charge of crucial aspects of public policy, and for these companies to be subjected to the same set of rules, not to special deals dating back to when they bought themselves out of court.”
Contact: Mário Monteiro de Sá +32-474 08 80 19 / Bronwen Maher 087-784 1937