EESC position on the EU tobacco review

7 Oct 2013
Ref: 58/2013

Employing almost 1.5 million people in the EU, the tobacco sector promotes rural and economic development and is one of the few major export sectors to still maintain a positive balance, both at the European level and in many member states.

"We have to stop young people from starting smoking in the first place. There's no doubt about it, health is the priority. We need to educate them about the awful effects of smoking. But tighter regulation is not the solution. While it may cut the number of smokers, smuggling and counterfeiting will become an even greater problem. Tax revenues will also fall sharply. We have to consider the impact on the economy. A lot of jobs will be at risk if the current proposal goes into force. We cannot afford that, especially at a time of crisis", stated José Isaías Rodríguez García-Caro, rapporteur of the EESC opinion on "Manufacture, presentation and sale of tobacco and related products. "Health and economic considerations must both be considered."

 

  • The EP draft proposal risks having serious consequences for jobs, the economy and tax revenues, thereby breaching other fundamental EU objectives such as full employment and restored growth.
  • Health takes priority over all economic considerations, though scepticism remains on how effectively the European Commission's proposed measures help the gradual process of quitting.
  • Public education and awareness-raising campaigns concerning the serious health effects of exposure to environmental tobacco smoke must be boosted

Rural areas

  • Tobacco production contributes to rural employment. The current tobacco leaf harvest in the EU amounts to 250,000 tonnes of tobacco per year and provides employment to 400,000 people.
  • There is a real threat to employment in agricultural areas where no other alternatives have been developed and where CAP subsidies are no longer available.
  • The cohesion and structural funds, regional funds and funds for research and innovation should be used effectively to minimise these labour market risks and implement training schemes for workers, together with scientific, technical and innovation support for enterprises and farms.

Health warnings

  • Proposal on the inclusion of health warnings, covering 75% of both faces of the cigarette pack is not based on definitive scientific evidence. In addition, this change in packaging may threaten jobs in the packaging industry, which remains a sector of great economic importance in several European countries. It would also undermine the legitimate intellectual and industrial rights of manufacturers to use their registered trade marks. 
  • Standardising format and taste could likely lead to an increase in tobacco smuggling, satisfying public demand through unregulated channels. Member state tax authorities already lose 10 billion euro in tobacco tax receipts every year. In addition, the absence of any quality control of such products will severely compromise consumer safety.

 

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