The Tobacco Products Directive or TPD of the European Union regulates the manufacture, presentation and sale of tobacco products in the Member states of the EU. In 2010 the EU held a public consultation on possible revisions to the directive. Millions of people across Europe, and in the UK, could be affected if it is adopted.
This proposed directive includes measures such as a ban on menthol and slim cigarettes, which seems unusual as thus far, there is not any record of any EU member state attempting to ban either of them. Brussels bureaucrats also want to ban packets of ten cigarettes.
Europol, in their assessment of organised crime threats said, "Organised crime groups based in the EU are increasingly active in cigarette smuggling, seen as an attractive alternative to drug trafficking because of the lower penalties and large profits".
There are also moves within this directive to reclassify e-cigarettes as medicinal products, and this issue has resulted in thousands of emails, letters and phone calls to my office from dismayed constituents who are worried that e-cigarettes could effectively be priced out of the market as they will become subject to extensive, and highly expensive, testing. Some fear that e-cigarettes may be pushed underground into a black market.
One of the aims of the Tobacco Products directive is to attempt to make smoking less desirable to young people. I certainly do not want children to start smoking or be tempted to start smoking. However, I do not believe that the measures to protect young people, or indeed anybody who may be tempted to start smoking, are something that needs to be enforced by the European Union. If we are to stop children from smoking, we need to do more in the UK, starting with further education to young people about cigarettes. Greater punishments must be enforced on adults who buy tobacco products for children.
Education, not legislation is what is needed.
Last week, a meeting, called the Conference of Presidents, saw debate on the Tobacco Products directive pushed Strasbourg this week to October, when MEPs are due to vote on it. This will alarm those who want the TPD to be adopted as they wanted the directive to be introduced before January as Lithuania, who are the current Presidents of the Council of Europe, are in favour of new and greater legislation. On January 1st 2014, the EU Presidency will be passed to Greece, who are opposed to greater tobacco control.
If measures are necessary at all, then it is surely only right that it is our elected Politicians in Westminster that decide on those measures rather than unelected bureaucrats in Brussels.
I will consistently vote against any future attempt to reclassify e-cigarettes as medicinal products and I will continue to fight for a binding referendum on the UK's membership of the European Union.