EPHA: Against Tobacco-Subsidies

EU agriculture budget must favour healthy foodstuff, not chronic disease in the form of tobacco subsidies

Brussels, 4 March – In the run up to next week’s European Parliament (EP) vote on the 2014-2020 EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), national delegations from the three largest political groups in the EP (1) are set to decide their negotiating mandate for the agriculture funds: a budge heading that will consume 38 percent of the next seven-year EU budget. The European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) calls on Europe’s political ‘families’ not to support the return of coupling subsidies to tobacco production.

“Pumping taxpayer’s money to a harmful industry once more is a step backwards for Europe, and does nothing to support efforts to move farmers from producing one of Europe’s greatest killers, to a more sustainable crop, ” said Monika Kosińska, Secretary General of EPHA.

Following the entry of the Lisbon Treaty in 2007, the CAP is, for the first time, decided on equal footing between the EP and the European Council. It is high time for Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to show that they are up to the job and pull themselves together in the interests of the health of their constituents.

Earlier this year, the EP Agriculture Committee agreed to restore the subsidies to tobacco growers (2) which phased out in 2010. If eventually part of the new CAP, taxpayers money, at a time of austerity and crisis, will end up increasing production of a toxic crop that causes nearly 700, 000 annual deaths (3) in the EU and is responsible of massive societal costs and loss in productivity. “The EP Agriculture Committee had the opportunity to forge a CAP able to deliver sustainable, healthy and nutritious food. Instead it risks opting to subsidise an unsustainable rise in chronic diseases and weaken Europe’s health and productivity,” said Ms Kosińska. “People living in Europe do not need institutions that bring back outdated and unsustainable policies, but politicians capable to withstand narrow interest groups (4) and stand up to protect the health of their constituents,” added Ms Kosińska.

If Brussels wants to make the most of its reduced 2014-2020 budget, it cannot reintroduce disastrous fiscal measures that were rightfully rejected and abandoned in the previous round of CAP reforms. They should concentrate on ensuring that producers move to economically sustainable alternatives to tobacco growing (5) as part of a new CAP fit for today’s challenges.

This backward-looking proposal from the EP AGRI Committee is bizarrely timed, given the renewed commitment by the European Commission and many in the European Parliament to tackle smoking in Europe (6) through the Revision of the Tobacco Products Directive. On the top of this, Subsidising tobacco growing goes against EU obligations under the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).

EPHA, along with appropriately 250 NGOs (7), signed up last week to an open letter from civil society calling for a public health friendly CAP reform. The new CAP should play a major role in tackling the current epidemic of chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs), like cancer and heart disease. NCDs pose one of the greatest threats to public health and economic growth, which in turn threatens to bankrupt Europe’s healthcare budgets. “In a bit more than a year’s time, the current EP will be gone as Europeans cast their vote for a new EU parliament. Many MEPs will return to their country politics, but their legacy will endure for many years to come. If EU politicians do not want to leave a disease-prone trail, it is now time to act,” concluded Ms Kosińska.

.. End ..

- Notes to editors

(1) The European People’s Party, Progressive Alliance of Socialists & Democrats, and the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.

(2) In 2002 a reform of the CAP was adopted establishing a 2006-2010 phasing out of subsidies to tobacco growers. On 23 January 2013 the European Parliament Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development (COMAGRI) adopted an amendment that would allow for all crops including tobacco to receive coupled support.

(3) Tobacco is the single largest avoidable health risk in the EU, accounting for nearly 700 000 premature deaths each year. Around 50% of smokers die prematurely (on average 14 years earlier).

(4) Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) found that 79% of the organisations lobbying on CAP reform, as listed in the European Transparency Register, are likely to be defending agribusiness interests.

(5) Economically sustainable alternatives to tobacco growing. Conference of the Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control – Fifth session: Seoul, Republic of Korea, 12–17 November 2012.

(6) Tobacco is a major preventable risk factor for cancer and cardiovascular diseases (CVD). Accounting for over 65% of total mortality in the EU, both diseases cause more than 1.2 and 1.9 million annual deaths respectively.

(7) [Open Letter] 250 Organisations Alarmed by the Prospect of Regressive Common Agricultural Policy reform.

- Contact information

Javier Delgado Rivera, Communications Coordinator- +32 2 233 38 76 or j.delgado-rivera@epha.org

Last modified on March 4 2013.

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About Benedikt Haerlin 14 Articles

Journalist and former MEP