EU tobacco products directive would have 'serious consequences for jobs, the economy and tax revenues'

The review of the EU's tobacco products directive must strike a balance between economy, health and jobs, writes José Isaías Rodríguez García-Caro.

The tobacco sector, employing almost 1.5 million people in the EU, promotes rural and economic development and is one of the few major export sectors to still maintain a positive balance, both at European level and in many member states. 

The changes proposed would have serious consequences for jobs, the economy and tax revenues, thereby breaching other fundamental EU objectives, such as full employment and a return to growth.

"The proposal to include health warnings covering 75 per cent of the front and rear of the cigarette pack, together with the new text covering 50 per cent... is not... based on scientific evidence"

It is of course crucial that health takes priority over all economic considerations, though scepticism remains on how effectively the proposed measures would help the gradual process of giving up smoking.

The proposal to include health warnings covering 75 per cent of the front and rear of the cigarette pack, together with the new text covering 50 per cent of the sides, is not, however, based on scientific evidence. 

This change in packaging may threaten jobs in the packaging industry, which remains a sector of great economic importance in several European countries, and would undermine the legitimate intellectual and industrial rights of manufacturers to use their registered trademarks.

Moreover, allowing differentiation only on the basis of price would reduce the attractiveness of producing high quality tobacco in the EU, since all products would end up almost the same. 

Standardising format and taste could lead to an increase in tobacco smuggling, satisfying public demand through unregulated channels. Member state tax authorities already lose €10bn in tobacco tax receipts every year.

In addition, the absence of any quality control of such products would severely compromise consumer safety.

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