In response to criticisms raised by ESTA and others, Politico last week reported European Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis as saying the Commission had included “a number of additional derogations and lighter measures for small companies” in its regulation for a tobacco track and trace system. While it is welcome that the Commissioner has at last acknowledged the existence of smaller tobacco companies, his comment is disingenuous, as the law’s provisions in fact undermine small to mid-sized tobacco companies.
The derogations referred to by the Commissioner allow a longer time for implementing the regulation and a longer transitional provision for niche tobacco products. The draft also says the final system would allow small and medium-sized tobacco companies 24 hours instead of the usual three to transmit information. However, the Tobacco Products Directive clearly distinguishes the track and trace system for cigarettes and RYO tobacco from other niche products. The extra time given was not meant for a longer implementation period for these niche products, but rather to create an entirely separate, specific system for these products. The regulation fails to follow through on this, instead establishing one system for all products.
Speaking in reaction to the Commissioner’s comments, ESTA’s Secretary General Peter van der Mark said: “The Commission refused to listen to industry when drafting this law, and the outcome was predictable: a poorly designed system that does not take account of the needs of smaller producers. The ‘derogations’ that Commissioner Andriukaitis talks about are simply not good enough. They do not address the concerns of small and mid-sized firms, and they do not meet the requirements laid out in the TPD. The Commission’s system is unworkable and their timeline is plainly unrealistic. We foresee serious problems arising as Member States attempt to implement this law – problems which could have been avoided if the Commission had simply followed its own Better Regulation principles and listened to what smaller manufacturers had to say.”