EU ZMK's Diary

Genval, 6th May 2016. – What are the 3 conclusions for the EU public health policy that the European Court of Justice (ECJ) dismissed the legal arguments raised by the tobacco and the electronic cigarette industries against the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD)?


The ECJ has confirmed the validity of this key public health legislation which should be fully implemented on 20th May 2016.

Further details about the cases (source: Smoke Free Partnership Press Release)

C-547/14, Philip Morris Brands SARL, Philip Morris Limited, British American Tobacco UK v Secretary of State for Health, Reference for a preliminary ruling from the High Court of Justice, Queen’s Bench Division (Administrative Court) (England and Wales) (United Kingdom) made on 1 December 2014

C-358/14, Republic of Poland v European Parliament and Council of the European Union, Action brought on 22 July 2014

C-477/14, Pillbox 38 (UK) Limited, trading as ‘Totally Wicked’ v Secretary of State for Health, Reference for a preliminary ruling from High Court of Justice Queen’s Bench Division (Administrative Court) (England and Wales) (United Kingdom) made on 27 October 2014

CONCLUSION 1 THE TOBACCO INDUSTRY “HAD LEARNED NOTHING AND FORGOTTEN NOTHING”

I have never faced such a ruthless and powerful opponent in my professional work like BigTobacco. They were ready to make resigned the Health Commissioner – which is still an unprecedented, forced resignation in the EU history – in order to block the TPD. They were not afraid of breaking into the offices of key tobacco control NGOs in 2012 to prevent them advocating for the adoption of the TPD. And although they have suffered 3 significant legal losses in the past, they will – never -give up, let’s have no doubt about it.

CONCLUSION 2 THIS IS NOT JUST ABOUT TOBACCO. THIS IS ALSO ABOUT ALCOHOL, FAST FOOD AND NON-COMMUNICABLE DISEASES

By validating legally binding actions to protect public health, the ECJ ruled in favour of public health compared to the internal market. That gives – in my legal opinon – public health a stronger legal value – under some conditions – than the internal market. This could and should be a wonder weapon for the European Commission to start regulate for the interest of EU population health. Yes, tobacco control is key for our health and tobacco is a key risk factor of many chronic diseases but we should not forget that there are many other risk factors (eg alcohol, unhealthy food) which should be regulated, too.

CONCLUSION 3: NO MORE EXCUSE FOR NO NEW EU REGULATION ON PUBLIC HEALTH

The judges were brave enough to give green light for EU legal action on tobacco control. I am wondering: what on earth prevents the Commission President to replace the weak mandate of the Health Commissioner with a stronger one? And what would convince the Commission Vice-President to drop his ultimate reservations and to allow for the Health Commissioner to come out with a European wide ban on transfats or a long awated new, EU strategy on alcohol? Or preferably both!

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