By Clive Needle
EuroHealthNet is pleased to have entered a collaboration agreement with The European Smoke Free Partnership (SFP), to work together to help implement the provisions of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). FCTC is a landmark global inter-governmental treaty which has just celebrated its tenth anniversary, a remarkable achievement. Thinking globally but acting locally, I participated for EuroHealthNet in the major 2013 conference in Turkmenistan, where the states within our WHO Europe Region agreed the Ashgabat Declaration on actions to tackle non communicable diseases (NCDs), including a stock take on progress towards FCTC goals. Since then I have been honoured to be part of the regional advisory group which has helped develop a draft Roadmap, devised by the excellent WHO teams in Copenhagen and Geneva, of specific next steps possible on tobacco control and smoking prevention. This will be formally considered and hopefully adopted by all 53 states at the meeting of the Regional Committee in September.
In our specific context, the EU Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) entered into force in May 2014. A transposition period of two years for Member States to bring national legislation into line with the revised Directive means that most of the new rules will apply in the first half of 2016. Implementation measures are well under way in many states and by the EU Commission. However, the Directive also foresees a transitional period for all product categories, to give manufacturers and retailers time to sell off their existing stock. A phase-out period of four years is foreseen for all products with more than a 3% market share in the EU, for example menthol cigarettes. We are gearing up to help that process.
Already some states are advancing national measures on packaging and point of sales, on rules for re-cigarettes, or on smoke free environments. Ireland, the UK countries, France, Norway and most recently Austria all have legislative processes underway, with many others in consideration. Opposition is often vocal, which is why EuroHealthNet has undertaken to work with SFP in Brussels and on the ground in countries to build and share evidence, of not only what works but how effective success can be sustained. SFP has just received a prestigious award from the USA Cancer Society for its leading work on advocacy for the TPD, so we are confident we are working with high quality experts in this complex, sensitive field.
This has been demonstrated at a recent event in Brussels, where SFP launched its colour coded interactive online map of how EU and associated states are performing on ensuring smoke free environments for all their citizens, six years after an EU Council Recommendation. The ‘’traffic light’’ coding shows 12 states are meeting their FCTC obligations well enough against objective monitoring criteria to justify a healthy ‘’green’’ shading. A further 14 states show some progress but problems of legislative exemptions or difficult enforcement, justifying an ‘’amber’’ rating. In 5 states smoke-free legislation is judged weak and unenforced, causing a ‘’red’’ valuation. This in itself is a clear case of inequalities in health between EU states. But examples were given from states such as Portugal, which showed how inequities also exist in implementation within states in regions and communities. So it is time to act. Ireland has set the ‘’gold standard’’ for the world with its comprehensive approaches: now our common aim is to help all enjoy similar benefits as appropriate, especially those states in greatest need, using the 2005 ‘’Limassol recommendations’’ as a guide for what can be done.
To underpin our links with WHO and SFP, EuroHealthNet has established a new Tobacco Working Group (TWIG) which will comprise national experts within EuroHealthNet. A session at our annual meeting in Newcastle will consider specific priorities for our work programme, but implementing the WHO Roadmap, support for the EC and its Expert Group on Tobacco Policy, and acting on the ground to turn the reds to yellow and green across Europe, will certainly be on its agenda.
If you might like to join us and find out more do please contact Clive Needle firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information
- WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco control, click here
- Tobacco and diseases prevention, click here
- Revision of the Tobacco Products Directive, click here
- Smoke Free Partnership, click here
- The Smoke Free Partnership “Smokefree Map” aims to highlight which Member States are providing sufficient and effective protection from passive smoking and which Member States could do more to protect their citizens either through improved legislation or improved compliance.
Clive advises the EuroHealthNet Executive Board and managing director on policies relating to health for all EU activities and actions on social, economic and environmental determinants of equity and wellbeing. He was formerly overall EuroHealthNet director for thirteen years and continues to work in support of WHO and other international organisations and projects in Europe.