An overwhelming majority of MEPs voted this week to adopt the tobacco products directive (TPD) compromise text, reached by the European parliament and council in December 2013.
More than 700,000 European citizens die every year from tobacco related illness including many cancers, heart and respiratory diseases.
In fact, the WHO estimates that tobacco causes 16 per cent of all adult deaths in Europe. The adoption of the text this week means that young Europeans will be significantly less likely to ever pick up their first cigarette or be tempted by the advanced marketing strategies of tobacco manufacturers.
[pullquote]The European parliament has truly left a lasting legacy on the health of Europe's citizens ahead of the upcoming MEP elections in May 2014, and should be proud of what it has achieved[/pullquote].
The road to adoption by the parliament has not been easy. Even hours before the planned vote, last-ditch attempts were being made to delay the plenary vote by some MEPs. Moreover, the final vote included a number of split votes targeting the removal of key tobacco control measures such as the ban on tobacco packaging which looks like cosmetic products, known to target young women, and misleading labelling.
Nevertheless, the compromise text was fully adopted by a clear majority of MEPs and the parliament supported the introduction of mandatory pictorial and health warnings covering 65 per cent of both the front and back of packs, a ban on flavourings including menthol, tighter control of the tobacco supply chain and appropriate regulation for nicotine-containing products.
With leaked documents professing Philip Morris International alone to have 161 lobbyists working on the dossier, this is a huge victory for public health and particular thanks should go to all those policymakers who stood up in defiance of the vast amount of resources thrown at protecting business interests over the health of Europe's children.
In particular, I would like to thank the presidencies and health ministers of Ireland and Lithuania, EU health commissioner Tonio Borg, the commission's excellent DG SANCO team and the S&D rapporteur, Linda McAvan and her committed team, as well as the shadow rapporteurs, Karl-Heinz Florenz, Carl Schlyter and Martina Anderson.
Without the combination of fantastic policymakers like these, the TPD would not have been agreed on Wednesday. Let's give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar.
I would like to take this final opportunity to thank them again for their unwavering commitment, and look forward to shortly seeing a similar positive outcome from the council who still must formally adopt the compromise text.
This directive has been over five years in the making and we shouldn't have to wait any longer.