Last week, the European Commission held discussions on the implementing acts meant to introduce a track and trace system for tobacco products in the EU. French Conservative MEP Françoise Grossetête issued a statement describing the proposed measures as “largely heading in the right direction.” Yet as they relate to nearly all but the largest cigarette manufacturers, she could not be more wrong.
Rather than delaying the process as Ms. Grossetête claims, smaller producers are seeking to protect their very livelihoods in the face of a Commission proposal that is too complex to implement effectively, let alone on the timescale laid out.
In ESTA’s view, this is also a repeat of what happened in 2014 in implementing the Tobacco Products Directive – namely, the Commission set an unrealistic deadline after which it started infringement procedures against more than half of EU member states. This is an irresponsible approach, blind to the realities of the wider industry but also to member states’ capabilities. The proposal as it stands is unworkable for smaller firms. And due to the higher cost per product manufactured, these firms will struggle to stay in business, almost certainly leading to further industry consolidation and seriously distorting the market, which is something any Commission proposal should avoid.
ESTA Secretary General Peter van der Mark adds: “The European Commission has to stop wilfully ignoring the concerns of smaller producers of fine-cut and niche tobacco products. We are all on the same side in the fight against illegal trade. It’s time for the Commission to step up and take responsibility for introducing a reasonable system that can be implemented by all member states and used by all producers big and small.”