- The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) in principle welcomes the legal basis for the European Commission's proposed legislative act considering it appropriate in the light of the objectives of the proposal, which the EESC fully shares, in particular that of preventing people, especially young people, from taking up smoking. Nevertheless the EESC notes that on some occasions misgivings have been expressed regarding this legal basis, notably on the grounds that the objective can be sufficiently achieved by the Member States.
- The EESC fully agrees with the European Commission that the right to health must take priority over all economic considerations and is also strongly in favour of promoting public education and awareness-raising plans and campaigns concerning the serious health effects of smoking.
- The Committee recognises that a considerable number of jobs will be at risk EU wide in all sectors along the value chain of agriculture, production, packaging and retail of tobacco and related products. The EESC calls for the necessary attention to be paid to preventing these labour market risks and strongly recommends that all available forms of transitional and restructuring measures be used. The cohesion and structural funds, regional funds and funds for research and innovation should be used effectively in Member States impacted most by this possible restructuring, particularly in the current context of economic crisis.
- The EESC can only welcome the recent signature of a protocol to eliminate illicit trade in tobacco products in which stakeholders are asked to implement effective measures to eliminate the illicit production of and trade in tobacco.
- The current proposal will significantly alter the conditions for market entry, competition, and the necessary functioning of free trade in a legal, albeit exceptionally highly regulated, product. The EESC acknowledges concerns raised in this regard by some impact assessments at EU and international level. However the EESC also calls for consideration to be given to the benefits that can be expected, in terms of both reduced health care costs and improved public health bearing in mind that European citizens are entitled to high level of protection of their health from the European Union, in accordance with Article 35 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights.