Following recent reports revealing that the European Commission has been trying to push its tobacco control agendas in a deceitful manner, seven EU member states have expressed their serious concern over being excluded from the negotiations which the Commission is plotting to settle during the infamous COP-10.
Earlier this month, a leaked EC document indicated that the EC was trying to extend the EU-wide snus ban to nicotine pouches. This was followed by evidence that the commission is being deceitful in plotting to bypass parliamentary and public scrutiny, settle such matters in secrecy during the COP-10 conference in Panama, and then just present them to the European Parliament as a done deal.
Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Romania, and Slovakia have released a joint statement highlighting the Commission’s shift from the usual consensus-based approach to using Article 218 (9) TFEU. This is very concerning as it gives the Commission a prominent role in the Panama negotiations, which sidelines individual countries, they explained. The member states underlined that the consensus model adhered to in the past nine sessions, has been successful and the lack of warning or explanation for the change is deeply unsettling.
All member states, as well as consumers, should have a seat at the table
Michael Landl, Director of the World Vapers’ Alliance (WVA) is concerned that crucial discussions impacting millions of vapers and smokers throughout the EU may not accurately represent the different perspectives and interests of all member states. The EC’s apparent anti-harm reduction stance significantly contradicts the more progressive and successful policies adopted by various member states. He stressed the importance of amplifying and listening to the voices of these nations.
Politico added that these member states expressed regret over the lack of a robust proposal for a working group dedicated to novel products. Concerns have been raised about the EU’s outlined strategies for participating in FCTC expert working groups, mainly about the representation, rotation, and coordination among the 27 member states.
In other news, 52 global consumer groups have written to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, urging the United Nations to safeguard the universal Right to Health and endorse harm reduction as a strategy to reduce smoking. Executive Coordinator of the Coalition of Asia Pacific Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates (CAPHRA), Nancy Loucas, expressed support for this request, stressing the necessity for the WHO to acknowledge harm reduction as a legitimate, evidence-based approach concerning smoking.
The concept of harm reduction is officially recognized but not being applied
Loucas explained that the Right to Health, a fundamental principle found in various UN treaties, the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), and other official documents, actually acknowledges the concept of harm reduction. Yet this same concept is being condemned by the FCTC, and completely left out of discussions related to reducing global smoking rates.
Expressing concern about the WHO’s restrictive measures on safer smoking alternatives, Loucas said that a recent Western Pacific Declaration, signed by over 80 entities, is asking for transparency at FCTC meetings. While the open letter to Mr. Türk calls for the WHO’s recognition of harm reduction in relation to smoking, a review of policies based on current scientific evidence, support for UN and WHO member states in adopting harm reduction strategies, and involvement of consumer groups in WHO FCTC meetings.
CAPHRA stressed that harm reduction plays a vital role in decreasing smoking rates and advancing public health, urging the UN to act in safeguarding individuals’ Right to Health, including smokers.