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Loophole in the Tobacco Products Directive is Intolerable - Lynn Boylan MEP

26 October, 2017 - by Senator Lynn Boylan

Lynn Boylan MEP has expressed her concern at a loophole in the Tobacco Products Directive. The loophole allows solution providers to bypass independence criteria by way of subcontracting.

The independence criteria are there to ensure that there are no ties with the tobacco industry. Ms Boylan has written to Commissioner Andriukaitis and has attached the letter calling for a clause prohibiting subcontracting to be added to the independence criteria.

Speaking from Brussels, the Dublin MEP said

“Tobacco is one of the most extensively smuggled substances in the world with 1 in 10 cigarettes sold in the EU coming from illicit trade. This means that governments are robbed of millions in potential revenue, making tobacco contraband a lucrative criminal business.

"Along with public health reasons, this illicit trade is why the Tobacco Products Directive was introduced. It laid down the rules for an EU-wide tracking and tracing system in order to detect contraband.

However, the big tobacco companies have been determined to have their sway on tobacco regulation for years in the EU, especially on this tracking and tracing system, which is to be rolled out in 2019.

“The tobacco lobby is strong in the EU. The top companies spend millions every year on Brussels-based lobbying and employ lobbyists with European Parliament accreditation to engage with MEPs on issues that they claim as relevant to their business.

"The tobacco industry claims the problem with the illicit trade of tobacco is counterfeit cigarettes but even its own data shows that most of the illicit trade products are manufactured by the tobacco companies themselves.

"Therefore, there is clearly a need for complete separation from the problem and the solution, i.e. no influence from the tobacco industry on putting in place an effective tracking and tracing system.

“It is my firm belief that whoever is to provide the solution to this problem must have zero ties with the industry.

"This is not an absurd demand given the history of the big tobacco companies and their invasive attempts to get closer to the EU decision making tables. People living within the EU deserve a robust system of tracking and tracing. 

“The biggest tobacco firms have come together to produce a tracking and tracing system to replace the outdated tax authentication stickers throughout the EU. By subcontracting its work, they could potentially bypass the independence criteria laid out in the Directive.

"This situation is unacceptable, so I have requested that the Commissioner close this loophole to ensure our citizens and governments are not hoodwinked by this notorious and powerful industry.

“I will continue to insist on the complete separation of the tobacco industry and EU tobacco regulation.”

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