31 October 2013
- Tobacco & Smoking, - Healthcare, - Medicines

Tobacco Product Directive vote in European Parliament

In the last issue of eZine we informed you that the debate and the vote on the Tobacco Product Directive had been postponed. The vote in the plenary took finally place on the 8th October and EU Policy Officer Roberta Savli followed it live in Strasbourg. The Parliament voted in favour of the Commission’s proposal and, especially, gave the mandate to the Rapporteur, the Member of the European Parliament Linda McAvan (UK, S&D) to negotiate with the Council of the European Union. The objective is to have the directive adopted before next European Parliament’s elections in May 2014. But what are the main provisions voted by the European Parliament?  

  1. Combined health warnings (text and pictures) will have to cover 65% of the front and back of tobacco products packages and they have to be placed on the top: currently these warnings are smaller, placed on the bottom and, in some Member States, there is no obligation to use them (only 10 Member States use them)
  2. A positive list of additives should be established by the Commission, menthol cigarettes are not allowed anymore although a 5-year exemption period has been allowed
  3. Slim cigarettes will continue to be allowed on the market, but slim or fancy packages will not (packages that contain less than 20 cigarettes are not allowed anymore)
  4. Better provisions on traceability will allow to track tobacco products throughout the entire supply chain and therefore limit counterfeiting
  5. E-cigarettes are regulated under the general safety of products directive, but to be placed on the market they will need to respect clear requirements established in the amendment adopted by the EP plenary; those products claiming health benefits will be regulated under the medicinal products legislation

EFA supported combined health warnings covering 75% of the packages, comprehensive ban on all additives, ban on slims, better provisions on traceability and regulation of e-cigarettes to guarantee their safety for users. We can draw positive and negative conclusions from this vote that has a bittersweet flavour. Stronger requirements backing the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee (ENVI) report voted in July could have been adopted by the Members of the European Parliament. However, tobacco industry requests were not completely supported by the plenary. EFA will continue to support the Rapporteur in her effort to protect public health in Europe and we will follow the negotiations with the Council. EFA has been very active in the whole process of adopting this piece of legislation. The letter addressed to the members of the ENVI committee on the 8th July is to be found here and the letter addressed to all the MEPs before the plenary vote is here. Click here to see the adopted text of the legislation.  

Medical Device Regulation

On the 22nd October, the plenary vote on Medical Device Regulation took place in the European Parliament. The main difference to the text adopted by the ENVI committee in September is that now not all medical devices are considered as reusable by default. If producers or healthcare institutions (e.g.: hospitals) want to reuse the device, they have to show the safety for patients. Member States are still free to limit this for public health reasons. This is good news for EFA as we were particularly worried that the Rapporteur’s proposal would have put patients at risk. We supported that medical devices should only be re-processed, and with clear standards and guidelines developed by the Commission, if there is sufficient evidence that it is safe for patients. Similarly to the Tobacco Products Directive, we have contributed to the legislation process with written appeals to the MEPs to reflect the needs of patients with asthma, allergies and COPD. The first letter with voting recommendations was sent to the members of the ENVI committee in September, while the second one presenting the perspective of patients with allergy and respiratory diseases was sent to all the MEPs in the plenary shortly before the vote.  

7th Environment Action Programme vote

On the 24th October, the plenary in the European Parliament has adopted the Seventh Environment Action Programm, the framework programme for environmental policies in the European Union. The MEPs adopted the text as it was voted by the ENVI committee in April and agreed upon with the Council of the EU. This document is particularly important for us as for the first time, the programme gives due weight to improving the quality of the indoor air. First, the goal is now set to improve indoor air by 2020; second, it is also included in the measures that need to be taken; third, it is included in the strategy that is established for a non-toxic environment, which has to be set up by 2018 and fourth, it is now clearly included when the air pollution problem is defined. In addition, it sets the goal that by 2020 outdoor air quality has significantly improved, moving closer to WHO recommended levels.

This is even more important given that this month two important documents related to this issue have been published. On 17th October the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the specialised cancer agency of the World Health Organisation (WHO), published the document “Outdoor air pollution a leading environmental cause of cancer deaths”, concluding that there is sufficient evidence that exposure to outdoor air pollution causes lung cancer. The European Environment Agency published “Air quality in Europe – 2013 report” on the 25th October. This document shows the need for actions as it reveals that about 90 % of people living in cities of Europe are exposed by dangerous air pollutants at levels that are regarded harmful by the WHO.  

Written declaration on recognising the burden of allergic diseases

On the 21st October, the Written Declaration on Recognising the Burden of Allergic Diseases was proposed by several Members of the European Parliament (MEPs). It is now opened for signatures for 3 months. Through this Written Declaration, the MEPs will have an opportunity to call on the European Commission and EU Member States to do something for allergic people in Europe. Indeed, more than 150 million EU citizens suffer from chronic allergic diseases, half of whom are undiagnosed due to a lack of awareness and shortage of medical specialists. More than 100 million Europeans suffer from allergic rhinitis and 70 million from asthma, the most common non-communicable diseases in children and the main cause of children’s emergency room visits and hospital admissions, and more than 17 million Europeans suffer from food allergies or severe allergies implying a risk of acute attacks or anaphylaxis with life-threatening potential. The Commission is called upon to encourage cooperation and coordination between Member States to promote: national allergy programmes; training in allergies and multidisciplinary care plans to improve disease management; use of preventive and tolerance-inducing approaches to allergy treatment; and scientific research into direct and indirect allergy risk factors.   Our President, Breda Flood said:“EFA welcomes the news that the European Parliament is willing to recognise the burden of allergic disease. We urge MEPs to sign up and support the health of patients with allergy and respiratory diseases and prevention in Europe. The Written Declaration is perfectly in line with our Manifesto for the European Parliament elections and patients, especially children, need the MEPs support.” EFA has been working in this field with our 4-year project on respiratory allergies. For more information on the project, the Book and the Call to Action, please click here. To see Joint statement we issued with EAACI to mark the opening of the Written Declaration, please click here.  

EU Directive on patients’ rights in cross-border healthcare came into force

On the 25th October, EU Directive 2011/24/EU on patients’ rights in cross-border healthcare entered into force. This legislative document is of big importance, because to date, there was only a judgment by the European Court of Justice on this issue. The European Patients’ Forum has issued set of recommendations that should ensure that this Directive would bring real benefits for the patients. EPF Director Nicola Bedlington stated that “now it depends on the way the Directive is implemented by Members States” and that EPF will “organize various conferences on this topic to encourage national patients’ organisations make full use of the opportunities.” The first in the series of conferences is planned on 9-11 December, 2013 in Brussels. Click here for more information on the event. More information on the recommendation by EPF, please click here.


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The EFA Team