Zoltán Massay-Kosubek

Genval, 8th March 2016. – The European Parliament is about to vote tomorrow on a tobacco agreement between the EU and Philipp Morris International (PMI) and it is at least questionable that the EU’s intention is legal, ethical or politically correct.

At the same bed with the ennemy?
From a legal point of view, according to article 5.3 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which is a legally binding World Health Organization (WHO) treaty, the tobacco industry should have no say whatsoever with regard to public health policies. Hence, any kind of agreement which is dealing with tobacco trade – which is inextricable linked to smoking and therefore health – should not be allowed. You cannot make a deal with the wolf to compensate you because of some lost sheep.

In addition to that, we are talking about an industry which is shamelessly launching legal actions against progressive EU tobacco control measures such as the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) and which is ready to use innovative legal interpretation within the World Trade Organization (WTO) to challenge plain packaging and which also dared to use Investor-to-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) to sue the Australian government for the same reason.

Article 5.3 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control

In setting and implementing their public health policies with respect to tobacco control, Parties shall act to protect these policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry in accordance with national law.

Tobacco is a lethal product which intends to kill you

From an ethical point of view, reaching a deal with a Tobacco giant is even more problematic.
Tobacco is the only products which kills you if you use it as it is inteded to be used and there is no safe level of smoking. It is a key risk factor of many chronic conditions (cardiovascular diseases, cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), diabetes, visual impairment etc.) Therefore, we cannot remain neutral on tobacco as a product. When we talk about tax revenues resulting from tobacco sales and the costs of illicit trade, we should also take into account the societal and economic burden – including direct and indirect healthcare costs – of smoking prior to any further action.


Therefore, it is quite obvious to question of the political feasibility of the PMI agreement. How can the EU trust and agree with a company having such a bad legal record on public interest policy making?

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