European authorities seem unsure on the timeline for the next step in the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) review and laissez-faire about keeping anyone up to date on developments.

The European Commission is currently evaluating responses to a public consultation on the TPD and Tobacco Excise Directive (TED) revisions. Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and industry insiders who took part in the public consultation launched in 2022 have been waiting anxiously for the Commission to adopt the findings of the evaluation process before it can draft a revision proposal the European Parliament and Council will discuss.

But the expected timeframe for this necessary step differs depending on the resource consulted and has changed multiple times in the past two months – including twice in a few days – without any official communication or explanations. Instead, the Commission keeps updating the timeline of the evaluation process on its website, leaving the task of finding out whether any changes have been made to the schedule to whomever is interested in searching for the information.

 

Searches and enquiries come up empty

 

The adoption of the findings was initially scheduled for the second quarter of 2023, based on the Commission’s website, and for last year’s third quarter, according to the 2023 Management Plan of the Commission’s directorate-general for health and food safety (DG-Santé). Last month, the expected period for adoption was updated on the Commission’s website to the second half of 2024, only to be moved up to the year’s first half a few days later.

If you’re finding this confusing, you’re not alone. Compounding matters is that no one would have noticed these changes unless they regularly checked the Commission website’s page on the evaluation process.

While TobaccoIntelligence sticks to its prediction that there will be no announcements on revisions of the TPD and TED before the end of this year, over the past months we did try to pick the brain of Commission officials as well as of MEPs who previously expressed their position over how the tobacco policy should be revised, with little success.

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    When, in October 2023, the Commission published its work programme for 2024 – which didn’t even mention the revision of the TPD and the Tobacco Advertising Directive (TAD), constituting the bulk of the EU tobacco policy framework, nor the expected revision of the TED – we asked MEPs in the two main coalitions, Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) and European People’s Party (EPP), if they had been informed of any delays.

    Both said they had no information in this regard.

     

    Is the evaluation process still underway?

     

    When browsing the Commission website last month, we realised the expected time for the adoption of the evaluation’s findings had been postponed to the second half of 2024. We asked the Commission about this delay, only to be told that the evaluation process was still underway and “decisions pertaining to the upcoming revision of the Tobacco Products Directive will be dependent on the findings of the evaluation”.

    This climate of uncertainty and lack of official information and updates has already fuelled fears among MEPs that the Commission was trying to bypass the European Parliament and EU member states by committing to conservative positions at the 10th Conference of the Parties (COP10) to the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), due to be held in November last year but postponed to this month.

    As COP10 is held in Panama this week, three months later, none of these doubts have been cleared up by the Commission, and MEPs are still waiting to know when they will be able to express their position over the revision of tobacco regulations in Europe.

    – Tiziana Cauli TobaccoIntelligence staff

    Photo: Greg Montani

    Tiziana Cauli

    Senior reporter
    Tiziana is an Italian journalist from Sardinia. She has worked for both international and local media in Italy, South Africa, France, Spain, the UK, Lebanon and Belgium. She also worked as a communications manager for several international NGOs in the humanitarian sector. Tiziana holds a degree in Political Science and a PhD in African Studies from the University of Cagliari and she’s a graduate of the Carlo De Martino school of journalism in Milan.