The European Parliament is urged to reject the renewal of EU agreement with the tobacco industry
March 2016 – Today, MEPs will be asked to vote for or against the 2016/2555 resolution, which firmly encourages the European Commission to cease any agreement or negotiation with Philip Morris International (PMI) to tackle smuggled and illicit tobacco trade.
We, at The European Network for Smoking and Tobacco Prevention (ENSP), including all members, partners and stakeholders, highly recommends the adoption of this resolution and the cease of any agreement with PMI after 9 July 2016, date at which the current agreement expires.
The current 12-year agreement was signed in July 2004, following legal actions from the European Union against PMI for large-scale criminal activity, including the organisation of contraband and money laundering. By signing this agreement, PMI avoided all the consequences linked to its conviction.
However, the Commission’s technical assessment has concluded in a working document dated from last February that despite a reduction PMI contraband, the agreement has failed to eradicate it completely, and moreover, it had not led to an overall reduction in the number of illicit products on the European market. Also, the growing demand for new types of illicit products such as “cheap whites” makes this agreement with a tobacco transnational company inefficient and unproductive.
In addition, this kind of agreement with the tobacco industry is now in direct conflict with WHO FCTC article 5.3, signed and ratified by the EU, which highly requires all parties to reject any type of partnership and agreement with the tobacco industry. Furthermore, article 8.12 of the WHO Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products, signed by the EU, forbids members states to assign or delegate any of the obligations, especially around tracking and tracing, to the tobacco industry. Agreements, such as the current one, which rests on Codentify, a traceability system developed and monitored by PMI, certainly put the EU in a position of infringement of both of the above articles, and potentially being criticised and discredited.
And finally, renewing the agreement with PMI will allow an industry responsible for 700.000 European deaths a year, to use it as a convincing argument to push governments in signing for further national partnerships, with the unique objective to develop and increase the market of its deadly products. Examples had been recorded in middle-income countries such as Romania
Within this context, ENSP, its members, partners and stakeholders very much hopes that the European Parliament will undeniably recommend the European Commission to disregard any extension of the agreement with PMI; and therefore make a choice based on the protection of hundred of thousands of European lives, the prioritisation of public health and the concern of EU credibility and commitment to both WHO FCTC and Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products.