In an article published this week, Euractiv cited a European Commission spokesperson stating that the executive body’s proposed track and trace system is fully in line with the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control’s Anti-Illicit Trade (AIT) Protocol, as it gives management of the system over to member states. ESTA is confused by the spokesperson’s numerous references to the AIT Protocol, as the Commission has been given powers by the European Parliament and member states to implement the 2014 Tobacco Products Directive, not the AIT Protocol.
The article adds that the EC considers the system to be an “efficient and cost-effective tool” for combating tobacco smuggling, despite unheeded warnings from tobacco distributors that it will be of “little or no value” and “extremely cumbersome”.
The Commission’s comments follow its release of draft implementing and delegated acts earlier this month on the track and trace system. According to the article, member states such as France, Germany and Italy have also rebuked the proposal for being overly complex and increasing administrative burden.
ESTA contends that by purposely pursuing too complex a system, the Commission is risking timely implementation by the member states, which it will then blame. This is a repeat of the process establishing the 2014 Tobacco Products Directive that set an unrealistic deadline after which the Commission started infringement procedures against more than half of EU member states.
“Implementing a track and trace system will demand significant changes to a manufacturer’s production processes, which will in turn entail substantial investment,” ESTA Secretary General Peter van der Mark said. “We seriously question the Commission’s view that the system as designed will be efficient and cost effective, as the major costs will overwhelm smaller companies while the potential reduction in smuggling is never stated and therefore an unknown.”