Mysterious thefts scupper EU tobacco crackdown

"The truth will emerge eventually, but it may be too late for the revised Tobacco Directive"

The tobacco industry has been granted a last minute reprieve after sweeping new rules to curtail sales and reduce nicotine addiction were derailed by a series of curious incidents in Brussels.

Health experts and tobacco control activists were on the brink of a hard-fought victory against the industry this month as a tough new Tobacco Products Directive was expected to be adopted by the European Commission.

But campaigners have been left stunned after the enforced resignation of the Maltese Commissioner, John Dalli - the driving force behind the directive - and a suspicious robbery in which laptops and documents containing the evidence to support the tough new regulations were stolen in an apparent targeted attack.

Two of Britain’s leading public health experts today called on European legislatures to press ahead with the directive in order to protect citizens from the “scourge” of tobacco.

Writing in The Lancet Professor Martin McKee from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Paul Belcher from the Royal College of Physicians argue that any delay or watering down of the directive, which is now widely expected, would hand the tobacco industry another victory in its battle to derail public health measure aimed at disrupting sales.

The revised Directive was expected to tackle once secret trade tactics used to attract future generations of smokers – revealed in industry internal documents released under US court orders.

It was expected to ban a range of flavourings, standardise the width, length, and colour of cigarettes, limit displays at point of sale, require larger graphic warnings on packs; and possibly open the door for plain packaging across Europe.

Specifically, it was also expected to reinforce the existing ban on smokeless tobacco and extend it to e-­cigarettes – in recognition of concerns that companies may try to circumvent the threat of smokers, put off by indoor smoking bans, quitting.

But now all this is in serious doubt. Two weeks ago, Mr Dalli was forced to resign amid amid allegations that he was aware of an alleged bribe, but took no action to stop it.

In a meeting with the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, he was told that the European Anti­Fraud Office (OLAF), had evidence that a Maltese businessman had approached a Swedish smokeless tobacco manufacturer, trading on Dalli’s name, and claimed he could influence the Directive for a fee. This approach is believed to have been made after the draft Directive had been finalised, according to The Lancet.

Dalli strenuously denies having any knowledge of this alleged impropriety, and there is no suggestion that he either benefited personally or changed the Directive.

In an interview with The Lancet News podcast, he said that the directive was under threat as he was the main “safeguard”.

Two day after his resignation, burglars disabled sophisticated movement sensors in order to access the offices of two anti­-tobacco and public health organisations on the Rue de Treves in Brussels. Laptops and documents were stolen containing all the material used to evidence the tough Directive while other valuables were untouched.

Professor McKee said the events have “set alarm bells ringing.”

“While the truth about these events will emerge eventually, it may be too late for the revised Tobacco Products Directive.  Yet there is no reason why this should be so.  The only beneficiaries of delay are the tobacco companies… The Directive addresses one of the greatest threats to the health of Europeans, is based solidly on evidence, and should be taken forward as planned,” said professor McKee.

Co-author Paul Belcher, Senior EU government affairs advisor at the Royal College of Physicians in London, said: “The only beneficiaries of delay are the tobacco companies and further delay will raise serious questions about whose interests the EU Commission is promoting.”

You can listen to the related news podcast here.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
News
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
arts + entsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker