This time last year, the start of a debate within the European Parliament on the revisions to the EU tobacco policy framework was imminent.
Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) who spoke with ECigIntelligence were sharpening their knives for what they anticipated to be a very heated discussion whose outcome was anything but certain, especially as far as alternatives to tobacco smoking were concerned.
As 2023 comes to an end, not only has that discussion not started yet, but it is not even part of the European Parliament schedule for 2024, and MEPs with strong stances on how tobacco policies should be revised and, especially, how novel products should be regulated, are left waiting for the battle to kick off.
Delays are unconfirmed but certain
Rumours over a substantial delay in the process leading to the adoption of the revised Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) and Tobacco Advertising Directive (TAD), on which the EU tobacco policy is based, as well as of the Tobacco Excise Directive (TED), have become increasingly consistent within the EU bubble, although no confirmation comes from European Parliament sources.
One MEP contacted by ECigIntelligence about delays in discussions on the revisions said they had “no indication regarding the timing”. Another one had “no information on that”.
Even without any confirmations coming from the European Parliament, though, the European Commission (EC), which will have to draft the revisions for MEPs to scrutinise, doesn’t seem to be prepared to do it anytime soon.
In the work programme for 2024 it published last month, the Commission makes no mention of the TPD, TAD and TED revisions, making it reasonable to assume their finalisation, and therefore their adoption and submission to parliamentary scrutiny, is not a priority for next year.
This is despite the public consultation on the EU tobacco control framework, launched by the Commission in February as the last step in the process before the Commission could draft and adopt the text, was closed in May.
A state of confusion
While the EC is operating fully within its capacity and mandate, these delays have fuelled tensions among MEPs, who have started feeling bypassed in their legislative role. This is particularly the case when coupled with rumours that a Commission delegation to the tenth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP10) to the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) had planned to push through conservative policies on tobacco alternatives at the conference and then present them as fait accompli as they were now international requirements.
COP10, originally scheduled for this month in Panama, has now been postponed until next year, feeding the uncertainty and doing little to alleviate feelings of unease.
At the same time, several EU member states are revising their tobacco laws, with some of them looking to introduce major changes concerning novel tobacco products, mostly in line with an unconfirmed expectation that the EU tobacco policy framework’s revision will reflect conservative positions on nicotine alternatives to cigarette smoking.
At this point, it would be reasonable, if not necessary, for MEPs to be able to start debate over the new tobacco directives, in order to avoid further speculation and allow for member states to have clear guidelines when revising their tobacco laws. But as yet there appears to be no move in that direction.
– Tiziana Cauli ECigIntelligence staff