International players write Linda McAvan, the rapporteur, about the proposal: “Millions of jobs are at stake and billions in potential trade with the United States”
What many saw as substantial concessions to the tobacco lobby was not enough. The new directive approved in early October by the European Parliament Plenary, although weak on many key points compared to the initial proposal, is still not accepted by the international supply chain that now is in charge again. The new insult consists of a letter, signed by several industry associations and addressed directly to the MEP text rapporteur, Linda McAvan (Socialists & Democrats), a few weeks before the trialogue with the Commission and the Council. The Directive, warn the producers, raises “serious concerns” under two points of view: “Not only does it threaten millions of jobs for tobacco growers in Europe, Africa and the United States but it also puts billions of dollars of potential trade between United States and Europe at risk.”
Of particular concern is Article 6, the one that prohibits the use of additives and flavorings, deemed dangerous by the Commission because they attract smokers – especially the younger ones. Though “they understand” the prohibition laid down by Parliament in respect to additives such as vitamins or caffeine, industry operators say they are “very alarmed” by the part of the Directive that expects “authorization of all the ingredients used in tobacco making and processing products.” This is because “the criteria for inclusion in the list of the ingredients is technically impassable, representing in fact a total ban.”
Even more serious, in the producers’ opinion, is a ban on ingredients that emit carbon monoxide during combustion: “It is an inexplicable and confusing provision – they attack – since any substance, when burned, emits carbon monoxide.” Absurdly the directive could technically mean “a total ban for all cigarettes and cigars in the European Union,” the tobacco farmers fear.
The stakes are high and the risks are elevated, according to the industry letter: “Tobacco farmers in Poland, Italy, France, Spain and Bulgaria sell 90% of their own product within the EU. The first to be hit would be the small producers, thus the large majority, since “the statistics demonstrate that 96% of the European agricultural businesses active in the tobacco industry are family-owned.” These farmers don’t have “alternative farming to fall back on or financial resources to diversify:” essentially, “the socio-economic consequences of a ban on ingredients would be devastating in the entire EU.”
But the implications could go beyond European borders. “Even more damaging” is the impact on farmers in other countries, such as Malawi. Not only that. According to tobacco producers, the directive could complicate trade negotiations with the USA, for which the EU is the largest export market: “The proposal has the unintended consequence of discriminating against American farmers and could undermine efforts to conclude trade negotiations between the 2 continents” they warn.
The request therefore is “a revision of article 6 during the negotiation process of the tobacco directive with the Council and Parliament and to consider our views in the interest of millions of tobacco farmers, their families, and the community they support in Europe and the whole world.”
An appeal which Italian workers join: Carlo Sacchetto, Director of the European Federation of Tobacco First Processors, comments on the letter: “We fully agree with the concerns of the tobacco farmers.” “Even we transformers,” he announces, are planning to “prepare a similar initiative.” “If you continue on this road, you are likely not to fight smoking but production,” said Gennaro Masiello, President of the Italian National Tobacco Organization. Production which, by the way, Masiello points out, has a significant value: “If we talk only consider the agricultural one – he calculates – it is about 100 million euro a year and when you consider the entire supply chain, we are talking about several billion euro plus 60,000 employees.