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Tobacco Product Directive Watered Down

The proposed Tobacco Product Directive was discussed in committees at the European Parliament as well as by the EU health ministers at the Council of the European Union. The health ministers of EU Member States met in June in Luxembourg to discuss the draft text on tobacco products regulation prepared by the Irish presidency of the Council of Ministers. The Irish minister of health James Reilly pointed out that health ministers of the EU member states should represent the interest of EU public health not the industry. The draft text was eventually approved, although the Commission's original proposal was significantly diluted. EU health ministers agreed on the prohibition of characterizing flavours and health warnings covering 65% of cigarettes’ package (the Commission originally proposed 75 %). The compromised text would also allow Member States to decide whether they will apply health warnings to pipe tobacco and cigars. The Irish presidency proposed not to introduce a ban on slim cigarettes. Ministers also agreed on maintaining the status quo for snus and introduce a transitional period for nicotine containing product, in particular e-cigarettes. In the end, the text passed with a qualified majority even though a number of Eastern and Southern European states were against the proposal, however not able to form a blocking minority. The proposal was also discussed by four parliamentary committees (JURI, IMCO, ITRE, INTA) which all rejected the most ambitious amendments in non-binding opinions. The ENVI committee responsible for the dossier will vote on July 10. The ENVI committee is expected to go even further than the Commission's original proposal, since the rapporteur Linda McAvan calls for introduction of plain packaging and larger pictorial warnings. EFA support McAvan’s positions and urges EU policy makers to introduce large pictorial warnings, plain packaging and a ban on slim cigarettes in order to put people, and especially children, off smoking before they even start. After the ENVI vote in July, the EP plenary will discuss the proposal in September and will vote about it in October and then the EP will have the mandate to negotiate directly with the Council. The Council press release is available here.  

Regulation on Fluorinated Greenhouse Gases

In June 2013 the ENVI Committee of the European Parliament voted on the draft report on the proposal on fluorinated greenhouse gases prepared by the rapporteur Bas Eickhout (Greens/EFA). The regulation aims at reducing greenhouse gases emissions and is of a major concern for EFA because it might have an impact on accessibility of hyfrofluorcarbons-based metered dose inhalers (HFC-based MDIs) for asthma, allergy and COPD patients. EFA has been advocating for clarification of the text, in particular for a clear exemption for medical applications. The amendment we have supported has been voted by the Parliament. Unfortunately, it is only mentioning the exemption in one of the recitals of the regulation and, therefore, it is not legally binding. We will continue our advocacy activities together with other stakeholders representing the healthcare professionals’ sector in Brussels and in Europe to guarantee that the exemption is taken into consideration by the Council. While being fully committed to the protection of environment, EFA believes that any consideration of policy measures to control HFCs should carefully assess implications to patients’ health and have the goal of maintaining a range of therapeutic options especially for the most vulnerable ones. EFA therefore urged EU policy makers not to take further measures against medical use of HFC MDIs in order to ensure availability of MDIs for patients who need them until affordable and safe alternatives and technical solutions are available for patients in all Member States. The asthma and COPD patient associations as well as medical organisations should also be fully informed about planned developments so they can play their part in informing and reassuring patients in their respective countries. More information here.

Medical Devices Regulation – amendments reviewed

EFA went through all the 900 amendments tabled on the Medical Devices Regulation and is going to propose voting recommendations to Members of the European Parliament. Since medical devices and their regulation have a direct impact on patients with allergy, asthma and COPD, EFA has been advocating for improved patients' participation, patients' safety and transparency. The ENVI Committee of the European parliament will vote on the amendments in July.

7th EU Environment Action Programme (EAP)

The European Parliament and the EU Member States have found an agreement on the 7th EU Environment Action Programme (EAP). The programme gives a clear priority to health prevention measures, and the European Parliament and the Irish EU Presidency have strengthened the measures for chemicals and air quality from the Commission proposal. Especially, the need to tackle indoor air quality that was introduced by the ENVI committee has been maintained. The EP and the Environment Council will vote on the programme in autumn.