Nessa Childers, MEP for Dublin, hailed this week’s decision by the European Commission not to extend an outdated agreement struck with Philip Morris to tackle cigarette smuggling and counterfeiting.
Ms. Childers, a member of the Parliament’s Environment and Public Health Committee as well as of a grouping of MEPs who work to counter big tobacco’s influence on EU legislation, had been a longstanding critic of the agreement.
Speaking in reaction to the Commission’s announcement, from Brussels, Ms. Childers said:
“I welcome this decision, which follows parliament’s position earlier this year, and the recommendations I made in an opinion from the Environment and Public Health Committee on transparency, integrity and accountability.
“This agreement was the outcome of an out-of-court settlement between the EU and big tobacco, over a decade ago, when the industry was taken to the dock for its own links to smuggling, money laundering and organised crime.
‘This awkward solution has since become obsolete and was exploited by big tobacco, who shamelessly claimed it as part of their corporate social responsibility schemes.
“Moreover, it would have been inappropriate to renew this special form of cooperation under current World Health Organisation guidelines on how to insulate the conduct of public authorities from the interests of the tobacco lobby.
“It was high time the Member States and the Commission put an end to what was effectively the outsourcing of customs control over smuggling and counterfeiting to the industry itself, taking the industry’s findings, which match their own vested interests, at face value.
“There was a failure to test them with independent laboratory assessments, and we do not know how much revenue we lost.
“Of course, the industry was keen on continuing this cosy deal, and yet it challenged the new Tobacco Products Directive, which they did so much to water down, in the EU courts, whilst negotiating with the Commission to renew the agreement.
“This directive and a World Health Organisation protocol on the elimination of illicit trade in tobacco products give us appropriate, transparent and public authority-led instruments which will prevent us from being kept in the dark and potentially swindled.
“Two other, similar, agreements with other big tobacco companies are due to expire in the coming years, and they should be stubbed out without delay.”