European Conference on Tobacco or Health
As announced in March, EFA was present in the sixth European Conference on Tobacco or Health in Istanbul (March 25-29). Jointly organised by the Turkish Association for Cancer Research and Control and the National Coalition on Tobacco or Health under the auspices of the Association of European Cancer Leagues (ECL), the congress gathered more than 400 tobacco control advocates, policy makers, scientists, health educators and health professionals from all around the world. The theme of this year was “Towards a Tobacco-Free Europe and World: Research and Policy Directions”. Among other topics, the plenary and panel sessions focused on the health effects of tobacco, smoke-free legislations, tobacco industry’s tactics, packaging and labelling of tobacco products, electronic cigarettes’ development and illicit trade in tobacco.
Having been formally adopted by the Council of the European Union only in mid-March, the new tobacco products directive received special attention by the audience and speakers. Both the rapporteur of the text at the European Parliament Mrs McAvan and the Health Commissioner Mr Borg reflected the importance of controlling the epidemic of tobacco use in Europe in their speeches. Tobacco is responsible for 700,000 premature deaths every year in Europe, with one out of two long-term smokers dying from it. The World Health Organisation European Region has one of the highest proportions of deaths attributable to tobacco, and the economic impact is equally important with 25 billion Euros lost due to healthcare costs and 8.3 due to reduced productivity at work.
During the conference, the results of the Tobacco Control Scale 2013 were presented. Ten years after the first study, a new survey was circulated among 34 European countries as regards their policies on tobacco pricing, labelling, advertising, smoke-free legislations, and tobacco control and cessation budget. As for the previous ranking, the champion of tobacco control policies in Europe is the United Kingdom, followed by Ireland and Iceland. Our partner organisation, the European Network for Smoking and Tobacco Prevention organised a pre-congress workshop on “Smoke-free environments from the Human Rights perspective”, and EFA presented the patients perspective and the right of the most vulnerable groups to be protected from second-hand smoke. We also disseminated our Manifesto to raise awareness of policy-makers and other stakeholders on the need to improve the lives of people with allergy, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD) in Europe, whose health is seriously affected by tobacco.
Stakeholders join their voices to achieve Universal Access to Health and medicines
On April 8, the European Patients’ Forum together with the European Public Health Alliance, the European Generic Medicines Association and the International Association of Mutual Benefit Societies organised an event at the European Parliament on the topic of “Universal Access to Health”, with the objective of making the voice of the four organisations heard ahead of the European Parliament elections 2014.
After short presentations of the pledges and requests that all organisations have for the new Parliament, a debate arose between three Members of the European Parliament co-hosting the event: Mr Kovatchev, Mrs Taylor and Mrs Werthmann, the Commission representative and the stakeholders present. The Honorables coincided on the need to developo EU policies disregardles of the fact that public health and prevention remains a competence of each Member State. EFA, represented by EU Policy Advisor Roberta Savli and Communication Officer Isabel Proaño, presented EFA Manifesto and the three priority areas identified there, with a special focus on the need to develop an EU strategy on chronic diseases with diseases specific best practices. As a result, Mr Kovatchev and Mrs Werthmann publicly signed up EFA’s Manifesto.
Work in progress in the new air package
The European Environment Bureau (EBB) organised a webinar on April 16 for all interested stakeholders to present the new air package proposed last December by the European Commission. Several environmental and public health organisations took part in the webinar with the objective of learning more about the content of the proposal, the timeline and next steps in the European Parliament and the Council and, especially, developing a common campaign to tackle the problem of air pollution in Europe during the upcoming legislative review.
EFA will work on this topic as air pollution is responsible for 400,000 premature death every year and, especially, has clear consequences on the health and quality of life of people with asthma, allergy and COPD. We will keep you updated on the developments and future opportunities.