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E-cigs lobby hails Dalli’s departure, health groups raise ‘entrapment’ spectre

Controversial review of EU smoking laws affected €500 million electronic cigarette industry.

matthew_vella
Matthew Vella
18 October 2012, 12:00am
€500 million e-cigarette industry competed for EU's favour against pharmaceutical giants who feared competition against nicotine replacement patches and chewing gum.
€500 million e-cigarette industry competed for EU's favour against pharmaceutical giants who feared competition against nicotine replacement patches and chewing gum.
One of the industries that was to be affected by a review of the Tobacco Products Directive being spearheaded by the John Dalli has come down hard on the former health commissioner of the EU, with a muck-raking blog that illustrates the acrimonious split between tobacco lobbies and health groups in Europe.

A day after the resignation of Dalli over an investigation by the EU's anti-fraud office OLAF, after a former PN councillor used Dalli's name to seek a fee from a Swedish snuff tobacco company to broker a meeting with the commissioner, electronic cigarette lobby ECITA (Electronic Cigarette Industry Trade Association) set much store in reproducing questionable political episodes from Dalli's career gleaned from the Maltese press and blogs.

Dalli's review of the EU's tobacco laws planned a complete ban on electronic cigarettes and smokeless forms of tobacco such as Swedish snus, which can only be sold in Sweden under an EU dispensation.

Dalli's review planned a ban on the marketing of all electronic cigarettes unless they are authorised as medicinal products - a process that would require the onerous validation from medicinal authorities across Europe.

ECITA's opposition to the review was in part founded by their belief that electronic cigarettes - which vaporize a polyethylene glycol liquid into an aerosol mist to simulate the act smoking - is 99 per cent safer than smoking because it does not include nicotine (according to researchers from Boston University School of Public Health).

This is a market valued at €500 million with 7% of EU citizens believed to have tried e-cigarettes. This fact alone, supporters of such devices claim, flies in the face of 'big pharma' giants who want to protect their business of nicotine replacement chewing gum and patches, whose quitting appeal may be threatened by e-cigarettes. Companies like Novartis are actively involved in lobbying EU lawmakers in promoting nicotine replacement therapy over 'smoke-free' laws.

In the meantime, e-cigarette lobby ECITA has celebrated Dalli's departure by calling on the European Commission to scrap the existing consultation on the Tobacco Products Directive, and restart the process - something that has effectively taken place within the Barroso Commission after it was decided that only a new health commissioner, and not the interim one, should take care of the legal review that Dalli was spearheading.

"One wonders how else they can possibly proceed, if they are to regain any of the credibility they have so publicly lost. If there were any doubt about this, Dalli himself confirmed the utter futility of the Commission's attempt to pursue this consultation, in his own statement: 'I will continue to work so that all efforts made by myself and my services to revise the Tobacco Directive will proceed as planned'.

"Let us hope that in waving goodbye to John Dalli, we can also wave goodbye to the anti-public health agenda he was attempting to enforce."

Less happy where lobbies representing the health industry and anti-smoking charities, who suspect that the complaint by Swedish Match - the Swedish producers of snus - to the European Commission, is vitiated by the very fact that its vice-president Patrik Hildingsson is also the chairman of the European Smokeless Tobacco Council, the lobby which asked former PN councillor Silvio Zammit how much he would charge to set up meeting with Dalli.

As Mariann Skar, the secretary-general of the European Alcohol Policy Alliance commented, "It is sad to see a health Commissioner having to resign because of bribery scandals. But it is very alarming to note that it is Swedish Match was raised the allegations in the first place. They have been fighting for years to get snus into the European market. Are they hoping for a new health commissioner that would support their economic interests?"

matthew_vella
Matthew Vella is executive editor at MaltaToday.
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roderick degiorgio
EU is an idea rotten to core,we should ask Barroso to resign not Dalli.
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Better Future
Nahseb li Barrosa ghaggel wisq - nahseb li dak li qed nisimghu hu biss 'the tip of the Iceberg' il-lupi gganti ta' favur is-sigaretti nahseb li ghalijom Dalli kien l-ikbar ostaklu. Id-diskors tar-rapprezentat tal-OLAF jhalli aktar dubbji milli ipprova xi haga il-body lamguage kien wisq teatrali li jhalli aktar u aktar dubbji...nispera li Bondi+ li kien prezenti jikkonferma dan. L-anqas l-ikbar injorant ma jindirizza kaz bhall dan fuq tkeccija ta' Kummisarju ta' l-Ewropa specjalment fi ftit jiem qabel kienet ser tinhareg id-direttiva li kienet ser tolqot hafna kallijiet.
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Jason Deguara
If the commission found wrong doings by John Dalli for knowing what was happening but did not report it, what action is the Commission taking against those that offer a bribe to the Maltese businessman to set up the meeting? Surely these are guilty of bribing a third party as they have admitted themselves! Is this a case of a large lobby group getting revenge of a commissioner by insinuating false accusations? Is this a victory of this lobby group who did not get what they wanted through the normal channels and as we say in Maltese ma ghaddewx min gol bieb u ghaddew mit tieqa!! This whole episode put a dark shade on the EU Fraud Office as they did not seem to clearly show misdoings by John Dalli and double standards in dealing with various Commissioners! Cigarettes Lobby 1 EU Commission 0! lets hope that this will only be the Half time score
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Jason Deguara
If the commission found wrong doings by John Dalli for knowing what was happening but did not report it, what action is the Commission taking against those that offer a bribe to the Maltese businessman to set up the meeting? Surely these are guilty of bribing a third party as they have admitted themselves! Is this a case of a large lobby group getting revenge of a commissioner by insinuating false accusations? Is this a victory of this lobby group who did not get what they wanted through the normal channels and as we say in Maltese ma ghaddewx min gol bieb u ghaddew mit tieqa!! This whole episode put a dark shade on the EU Fraud Office as they did not seem to clearly show misdoings by John Dalli and double standards in dealing with various Commissioners! Cigarettes Lobby 1 EU Commission 0! lets hope that this will only be the Half time score
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Josanne Cassar
Events and developments following John Dalli's resignation are all pointing the figures towards OLAF and Jose Manuel Barroso's rush decision which has strengthened the hands of the smoking industry lobby. How could one accept this FACT when the European services are supposed to be there as a safeguard of EU the CITIZEN? The mind boggles!
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anton sciberras
Forget about e-cigarettes OR nicotine gums. Ban industry lobby groups. Decisions should be based on research not who has the best deception.
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Joseph M. Formosa
Din hi l-Ewropa tal-valuri li kulhadd jitkellem dwarha! Saret Ewropa korrotta, mahmuga u timxi biss bil-flus u l-poter! Xejn hlief hallelin!
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