18 October 2019

Joint Action on Tobacco Control (JATC) participation at the EU Health Programme High Level Conference in Brussels

The EU Health Programme Conference, with more than 300 participants, took place on September 30th 2019 in Brussels. The conference was organised by the Consumers, Health, Agriculture and Food Executive Agency, with the support of the European Commission Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety.

Joint Action Tobacco Control team participated at the Conference with an oral presentation and stand exhibition. The poster prepared on behalf of the JATC consortium was also presented on this occasion. This was an excellent opportunity for sharing information about JATC importance and project’s outcomes among various target audience such as policy-makers, representatives of governmental and civil society organisations as well as among experts and researchers. 

Information about JATC, including a brief interview from Prof. Panagiotis Behrakis, project coordinator, was included in the brochure with the EU funded projects’ success stories.

TackSHS Project Final Conference at the European Parliament, Brussels

Tackling tobacco-related chronic diseases in Europe: Novel data from the Horizon 2020 TackSHS project reveals the results of exposure to secondhand smoke (SHS) from cigarettes and second-hand aerosols (SHA) from electronic cigarettes on the respiratory health of European population, the burden of associated mortality and morbidity, and economic consequences for national and European welfare.


These important findings were presented for discussion to a wide audience of about 100 European stakeholders during the Project Final Conference at the European Parliament on 8 October, kindly hosted by MEP Cristian-Silviu Buşoi and MEP Rosa Esteràs Ferragut.

After a welcoming word of MEP Bușoi, the Conference was launched with the presentations of Mrs. Thea Emmerling (Head of Unit, the Cross-border health care and tobacco control, DG SANTE, European Commission) and Dr. Francisco Lozano (President, European Network for Smoking and Tobacco Prevention) on the state of tobacco control in Europe and related policy priorities. The opening session was followed by a comprehensive project overview delivered by its coordinator, Prof. Esteve Fernández (Director, Tobacco Control Unit at the Catalan Institute of Oncology).

During an interactive debate moderated by Dr. Armando Peruga (Former Programme Manager of WHO's Tobacco Free Initiative), participating researchers shared worrying numbers concerning: 1) secondhand tobacco smoke exposure, electronic cigarette use and exposure to their aerosols; and 2) burden of SHS exposure.

For instance, 
daily exposure to SHS among non-smokers is still as high as 31% (among 12 EU countries), ranging between 24% in Ireland and 68% in Greece, especially in indoor and outdoor settings of hospitality venues, workplaces, and private homes and cars. 

The studies led to a conclusion that the burden attributable to SHS exposure is still substantial in the EU, mainly due to SHS exposure at home. Only in 2017, among children aged 0-14 years, exposure to SHS at home was associated with 344 deaths (1.5% of total deaths in children) and 37,000 disability-adjusted life years (0.75% of total DALYs), whereas in non-smoking adults it was responsible of 30,000 deaths (0.6% of total deaths) and 712,000 DALYs (0.5% of total DALYs).

Moreover, the annual cost of lost DALYs due to exposure to SHS is 356 million (of Purchasing Power Parity Adjusted euro of year 2017) on average in the EU 28 Member States.

With regards to electronic cigarette use and exposure to their aerosols, the tests confirmed that electronic cigarette use impairs air quality with particulate matter, nicotine, volatile organic compounds, among others; while individuals exposed to electronic cigarettes aerosol showed immediate alterations of their lung function (respiratory mechanics and exhaled biomarkers) and experienced symptoms of eye, nose and throat irritation.


Further on, Prof. Esteve Fernández and Prof. Constantine Vardavas (GACD Lung Diseases Programme Co-Chair) addressed the above-mentioned numbers from the policy prospective. So much loss in precious human lives, including children, preventable health conditions and economic burden could be evaded and, hopefully, will be by committed and coordinated actions of national and European policy-makers.

In the end, the outcomes of TackSHS project aim to serve as a solid base for addressing health inequalities caused by the use of conventional tobacco and electronic cigarettes. TackSHS results provide scientific evidence, much-needed to facilitate urgent policy changes such as closing legislation gaps in regulation of novel and emerging products, while improving and strengthening comprehensive smoking bans in every EU Member State.

Key messages and recommendations deriving from 4 years of scientific studies under the TackSHS project are now summarised in the  Project Leaflet.
A leaflet summarising key messages and recommendations from the project
ENSP President addresses EU officials
during TackSHS Project Conference

As the first cases of e-cigarettes-related illness are appearing in a number of countries, ENSP President Francisco Lozano called on the European Commission and Members of the European Parliament to seriously consider collecting and funding further research such as TackSHS to ensure a broader understanding of the real harm of secondhand smoke and e-cigarette aerosols, and therefore protect EU populations with the most comprehensive legislative measures. 


"When it comes to the health of our citizens and the health of our children, dear Members of the European Parliament, dear representatives of the European Commission, we should never leave any room to any kind of harm whatsoever. ", says Francisco Lozano.

"Along with the increased number of casualties from e-cigarettes, and unfortunately, I am certain that we have not yet seen the end of this growing pandemic, 884.000 people worldwide still die every year from secondhand smoke." adds Dr. Lozano

Mentionning the importance of implementation of the WHO FCTC Article 8 as an essential step in fighting tobacco epidepic in Europe, Francisco Lozano expresses high hopes for the potential of the TackSHS Project:

"I firmly believe that TackSHS’ research findings will definitively improve our understanding of second-hand tobacco smoke as well as the health effects of e-cigarette emissions, which will allow tackling the health burden caused by exposure to them. The more data we collect, the stronger we are to fight the tobacco industry, that at the moment is using confusing messages to push for “harm reduction" or "less harmful products", especially towards our children and young people. 


I do hope that TackSHS will generate further research at European level in order to understand the real links between secondhand smoke and e-cigarette emissions and lung disease, so that appropriate policies can be adopted to better protect the health of our citizens and future generations."

WHO FCTC invites Parties to apply for
Official Development Assistance

With the expansion of the FCTC 2030 project, countries that are eligible to receive  Official Development Assistance (ODA) are encouraged to apply for individually tailored assistance to implement the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC).

Parties to the Convention who are committed to accelerate  WHO FCTC implementation need to submit their applications by 10 November 2019.
Joining forces in the Fight against cancer
On October 9, the European Parliament held a debate on the Fight against cancer during its Plenary session in Brussels. The debate was proposed by the EPP Group to bring forward their request of setting up a special committee on cancer in the European Parliament.
Vytenis Andriukaitis, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, started by noting that it had been 22 days since he had addressed the Plenary on cancer the last time. 

"Cancer affects all of our lives. Everyone knows the physical and mental consequences of the disease."

He was happy to stand before the MEPs to reiterate the importance of Europe coming together to beat cancer.  40% of cancer cases could be prevented by avoiding key risk factors such as smoking, alcohol, physical inactivity and excess body weight.

In anticipation of the EU Cancer plan
Ursula von der Leyen, the President-elect of the European Commission, has said she would put forward a new plan to combat cancer during her five-year mandate, which begins on 1 November. 

he much-awaited EU cancer plan will first have to identify specific needs at national level, seek funding and then be closely monitored in order to be successful, a high-ranking EU official has told EURACTIV.com. 

According to Seychell, EU member states, with assistance from the Commission, will have to identify their different priorities related to prevention, research, access to treatment, survivorship, palliative care, etc.

“And then we have to see what are the instruments that we need to use, related to policy, financial instruments, and legislation if necessary. You know, everything depends on the type of challenge we have,” he said, adding that the entire process needs investment both at the national and EU level.

October: Breast Cancer Awareness Month
In the context of the Breast Cancer Awareness Month, on 16 October, MEP Cristian-Silviu Busoi hosted a Conference 'Transforming Breast Cancer Together'.

The event provided a platform for discussion on the daily realities of living with breast cancer and how we can address ongoing unmet needs during the next 5 years. The agenda included speakers from the European Commission, Europa Donna, EUSOMA, ESSO, ECPC and other important stakeholders involved in the field.

MEP Elena Kountoura, who participated in the Conference, emphasized that tackling breast cancer should be a top priority for all the EU Member States:

"Breast cancer is absolutely curable if it is diagnosed and treated at early stage...

Every woman and man should have equal access to treatment. 
No one should be left alone."

Public Health Panorama calls for papers 
Public Health Panorama is calling for the submission of papers for a themed issue on making tobacco a thing of the past and taking strong action
This special issue will focus on accelerating implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) and its contributions to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development within the WHO European Region. It aims to celebrate the gains and successes of countries in the Region in advancing the long-term vision of a WHO European Region free of tobacco-related morbidity, mortality and addiction, and will examine the remaining challenges in tobacco control and how these could be overcome.

For further queries, please contact  eupanorama@who.int. 
Deadline for submission: 31 December 2019
Benchmark your country via the first Global Tobacco Industry Interference Index 
The first Global Tobacco Industry Interference Index has been recently released, and it unfortunately shows that efforts made by governments to tackle tobacco industry interference have been progressing slowly and are far from satisfactory.

The index covers 33 countries from around the world and
 reveals how the tobacco industry interferes in public policy in these countries and the measures respective governments are taking to address the industry’s interference. The information in this 2019 report is based on publicly available information for the period of January 2017 to December 2018. The executive summary is also available in the six UN languages.

This Global Tobacco Index, originally initiated by the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA), is produced by the Global Centre for Good Governance in Tobacco Control (GGTC) as part of the STOP (Stopping Tobacco Organizations and Products) global tobacco industry watchdog.

Visit the STOP website for more information... 

Find specific country information here...

EPP MEP Bușoi creates a Working Group to revise the Tobacco Products Directive

MEP Silviu Cristian Bușoi takes a step ahead in the fight against tobacco and creates a Working Group on the revision of the Tobacco Procucts Directive (TPD), and he is soliciting MEPs from the ENVI, IMCO or ITREE Committees.

Read the press release published by the MEP's office:


European Parliament: Cristian Bușoi, EPP MEP, creates a "Working Group on the revision of the Tobacco Directive".


In 2014 the EU adopted Directive 2014/40/EU, the so-called Tobacco Products Directive (TPD). It has enabled EU Member States to adopt a minimum set of harmonized legislation to regulate with tobacco consumption, which results in the premature death of 700,000 people each year in Europe.  

This Tobacco Products Directive is the result of a compromise reached in a particular context. Its revision is scheduled for 2021. It has become necessary, given the developments that took place after the adoption of the Tobacco Products Directive: thus, the growing debate on electronic cigarettes requires to consider the need to change the legislative framework in view of the generalized uncertainties about this product all around the world; the same applies to heated tobacco that appeared after the TPD's adoption: should it be considered as a tobacco product as recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO); the WHO Protocol "to eliminate the illicit trade in tobacco" entered into force on 25 September 2018 after having obtained the 40 ratifications necessary for this purpose, it now includes 56 parties (16 of which are in the EU to date),  which requires a more comprehensive review of tobacco supply rules and market surveillance, the EU having ratified this international treaty following the European Parliament's request; some Member States have wished to go beyond the TPD on the size of health claims by introducing plain packaging and it seems interesting to analyze its effects. These are just examples. 

The 2021 review should be prepared in advance so that the European Parliament and the Commission can work together in a collaborative approach, away from tobacco industry influence


This is why Cristian Busoï, EPP Member of the European Parliament, has taken the initiative to create a "Working Group on the revision of the Tobacco Directive" within the European Parliament, for which he solicits MEPs from the ENVI, IMCO or ITREE Committees.


Cristian Busoï proposes that this Working Group meets every two months from the end of November 2019.

Novel and Conventional Tobacco Products on the European Parliamentary Agenda

"In September 2019, US health authorities announced that the use of e-cigarettes had caused a number of deaths in that country, and that at least 450 people had been victims of severe lung damage associated with the vaporisation at high temperatures of commercially available liquid mixes and substances.

Irrespective of the controversy over the effectiveness — real or otherwise — of e-cigarettes with regard to quitting smoking, in its report of 26 July 2019, the World Health Organisation pointed out that e-cigarettes were undeniably harmful, advised against their use by people seeking to quit smoking and added that the use of e-cigarettes should be regulated." (MEP Michèle Rivasi)

During the European Parliamentary Questions session, a few important issues related to e-cigarettes' regulation were raised by Members of the European Parliament.
Smoking in schools was also addressed within the Parliamentary Questions, in the context of an increase in numbers of young people aged 15-24 using tobacco related products, practicing it especially in schools.

Read the question of MEP Theodoros Zagorakis
The first death linked to vaping in the UK
After several cases reported in the United States, the first case occurs in the United Kingdom where doctors believe that a factory worker’s pneumonia was cause by oil from an e-cigarette in his lungs, according to The Telegraph. Moreover, the Medical and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency revealed that in the last five years 200 health problems  in the UK, including pneumonia and heart disease, have been linked to the use of the devices.


Denmark raises Tobacco Taxes and moves forward with the implementation of Plain Packaging

The Danish government has proposed raising the price of a packet of cigarettes from 40 to 50 kroner over the next two years: by 5 kroner in 2020, and by the same amount in 2021.  

The proposal includes more neutral packaging, fewer in-store promotions and more enforcement of the law forbidding the sale of cigarettes to under-18s.


Germany: tobacco regulations are long overdue
While Germany is being branded a "developing country" in terms of tobacco regulation, experts warn that a new wave of cancer illnesses may be related to the consumption of E-cigarettes, reports Euractiv.
Whether it is about not publishing official reports from the World Health Organisation (WHO), or not regulating novel products such as IQOS and Juul, Germany seems to neglect the tobacco issue that tends to monopolise the public sector and the workplace.

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