EU Micromanagement of Tobacco Sales

Tobacco consumption is considered to be the largest avoidable health risk in the EU. Of the overall population, 28 percent are smokers.[1] To address this situation, the EU has taken various control measures. These control measures include the regulation of tobacco products on the EU market. The aim is to protect citizens from the dangerous effects of smoking and other types of tobacco consumption.[2]

Much of the EU policies are made from a public health perspective. At first glance, it sure looks a righteous and noble cause. Especially since around 50 percent of smokers die prematurely (which means 14 years earlier than ‘expected’).[3] However, what the EU legislators seem to forget is that consumption of tobacco products is something people do by choice. I.e. it is a choice addiction. To believe that consumers are so ignorant that they do not understand the dangers of inhaling tar and other harmful substances is, well, ignorant by all means.

According to the EU, union-wide rules are necessary to ensure that all consumers are equally protected. In order to ensure this, the EU has drafted a new Tobacco Products Directive, which was formally approved by the European Parliament on 26 February 2014.[4] In particular, the new Directive prohibits cigarettes with flavors and makes it possible for Member States to prohibit internet sales. In addition, the legislation will also tightly regulate the content and marketing of electronic cigarettes.[5]

The problem is that people do enjoy flavored cigarettes and menthol cigarettes are probably the number one flavor among a lot of consumers. A legislation banning something people like and enjoy consuming is dangerous for many reasons. First of all, there will always be a black market. And in fact, there already is one. As a result of the free market a lot of cheap and low quality products (mostly produced in China) are flowing into the EU market. Nothing is more welcoming for criminals than prohibition since prohibition means new markets and bigger profits. We know so because we have seen it happen so many times during past decades.

Second of all, why on earth should the EU legislators decide what something ought to taste like? It just doesn’t make sense. If you implement the same rules on let us say alcohol, I guess all hard liquor should taste like bad vodka. Because alcohol, then, should taste like alcohol and not like Minttu (a clear peppermint liqueur). Maybe we should ban all mixed drinks as well because we all know that if it tastes good we are likely to consume more. And that is a bad thing, right? I suggest that we start regulating all bars, pubs and clubs within the union, making sure that all bartenders are trained and authorized by the government, ensuring that nothing else is served but alcohol beverages tasting like… well, shit.

What annoys me the most, however, is the fact that the EU thinks that we – as individuals – are not fit to decide how we should live our lives. From an EU legislator standpoint it is all about numbers and almost never about individuals. They talk about something as abstract as the public health, meaning that my health is your health and that everything is about living as long as possible. By government force, that is.

Maybe I am naïve, but I do believe that life is not about quantity but quality. I am sure not the first saying this and I will most certainly not be the last, but it is worth repeating; if smoking makes you feel good then stick to it. It is nobody’s business what you do with your health. Especially not the publics. And most definitely not the EUs.






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