EU should confine tobacco agreement to dustbin

Dealing with cancer in Europe means dealing with its causes at the source, says Nessa Childers.

By Nessa Childers

05 Feb 2016

Another world cancer day sees an ongoing series of challenges in delivering the public provision of good quality healthcare services to citizens. However, there remains a set of measures that we have so far failed to implement, an area where we have no excuses.

These measures concern tobacco smoke, the single most preventable cause of cancer worldwide. Such measures would not only be extremely cost-effective as part of our prevention strategy, they would also hold out the prospect of increasing urgently needed revenue to our public coffers.

The infamous PMI Agreements on fake and smuggled cigarettes between the EU, member states and the tobacco industry are due to lapse this year. We should take this opportunity to confine them to the dustbin of public policy history.


We have empowered the industry to self-police cigarette smuggling without independent verification. Therefore, it will come as no surprise that the vast majority of seizures are declared as counterfeit. If they were not, then the industry would owe the exchequer duty on the smuggling of their own wares.

Over and above that, we exempt industry from paying below certain seizure thresholds. We also let them commission and pay for all the assessments of the system carried out to date by private consultants.

We should not entertain another decade of a poor out-of-court settlement based on the tobacco industry's collusion with illicit and tax dodging activities, a settlement it shamelessly spins as corporate social responsibility.

For the sake of our own health, when it comes to tobacco, it is time we put our customs authorities back in charge of their job.


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