CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY.
Dear Linda McAvan,
Honourable Members of the European Parliament,
I am delighted to be here on World No Tobacco Day – which this year focuses on tobacco's negative effect on development.
Tobacco truly is a threat to development.
According to the WHO, there are over 1 billion smokers in the world.
The vast majority – 8 out of every 10 smokers - lives in low and middle-income countries, where the burden of tobacco-related illness and death is the heaviest.
In fact, vulnerable countries, developing countries, which are already afflicted by so many economic and social problems, are a key target for "big tobacco" – and are suffering the consequences.
The diseases caused by tobacco kill over 6 million people worldwide every year.
Tobacco cuts lives short, weakens human capital and workforce, increases health and social costs – all this in countries already struggling to get out of poverty!.
Tobacco robs families of income and raises their healthcare costs.
Tobacco farming also leads to deforestation, to solid waste production, and to water and soil contamination with chemicals.
Clearly, tobacco can hamper Sustainable Development – to which the European Commission is fully committed.
How can we 'ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages' – our worldwide sustainable development goal for 2030 – without reducing smoking?
How can we reach the specific target of "reducing by one third deaths linked to chronic diseases" without reducing one of the main causes of such diseases – smoking?
And finally, how can we succeed in achieving "no poverty" or "zero hunger" – other related goals – without reducing the harm that tobacco causes?
The answer is: We can't!
And this is why one of our specific Sustainable development targets is to fully implement the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control - our most important tool in tackling tobacco use worldwide.
The European Commission is fully committed to helping developing countries in implementing the Convention.
Today, World No Tobacco Day, I call on all governments around the world to make the provisions of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control a reality in their territories.
The Convention needs to be rigorously implemented.
As I said, the Commission is helping developing countries to implement the Framework Convention.
- We help provide legal assistance to developing countries to establish anti-tobacco legislation;
- We coordinate international and multi-sectorial assistance for the implementation of the Convention at national, regional and global level;
- For example, our project "Investing in people" contributed over 5 million euros to fight non-communicable diseases in low and middle-income countries; including support for the implementation of the Framework Convention.
- We encourage cooperation between parties to the Convention; and enhance the preparedness to challenge industry interference.
Our support to the Secretariat of the Framework Convention has resulted in more knowledge and capacity for tobacco policy development.
It also led to the creation of a cooperation network to share good practices and join efforts to implement the Convention; identify alternative livelihoods for tobacco farmers; and reduce the influence of the tobacco industry on national processes and legislation.
We have started to see results.
Guided by the Convention, developing countries are passing stronger laws to reduce demand for tobacco products.
After decades of tobacco companies targeting low and middle-income countries, and years of increasing profits, tobacco sales are now beginning to decline.
Allow me now a quick look at the situation in Europe.
Here in Europe, we now have some of the most ambitious tobacco control provisions in the world.
I am talking here about the revised Tobacco Products Directive that Linda and I negotiated: Linda as the rapporteur at the time and myself as the Health Minister of the country holding the EU Presidency.
And I would like to thank once more Linda - and also the Smoke Free Partnership - for their tireless work and commitment to this cause.
Thanks to the Directive, since last May all new packs of cigarettes must be covered by photos and text warnings about the dangers of smoking.
Evidence shows that people are less likely to smoke if packs display these warnings. I hope they will help young people make the right choice in saying "no" to that first cigarette.
(Of course we have all seen industry efforts to hide these warnings inside attractive boxes! I am just back from Poland where I saw many such boxes. We need to think how to address this…).
Plus all attractive and strongly flavoured tobacco products – which appeal to young people - are now forbidden in the European Union
The Directive has been transposed in all but two Member States – I call on all countries to enforce it strictly, so that what we have agreed on paper becomes the reality.
Five Member States have also introduced mandatory plain packaging of tobacco products. This sets an excellent example for the rest of Europe.
The next step now is a European system to track and trace all tobacco products throughout Europe, to clamp down on illicit trade and ensure that all products comply with EU law.
The European Commission is on track with preparing implementing legislation for this purpose.
We must also ensure that the Illicit Trade Protocol under the Framework Convention is ratified as quickly as possible. The European Union ratified the Protocol almost one year ago. I urge all countries - in Europe and around the world - to do the same.
And of course we need to consider carefully how to address eCigarettes or novel tobacco products.
I strongly encourage all countries to use all the tools at their disposal, across policies, to reduce tobacco use.
We know the importance of prohibiting tobacco advertising and promotion.
We know that raising taxes on tobacco discourages tobacco use.
We know the importance of protecting citizens from second-hand smoke.
These - and other measures you can see on the slide - can help give citizens the possibility to live healthy lives, free from tobacco addiction.
Some countries are boldly forging ahead towards this goal. I applaud Finland and Ireland which are pursuing the ultimate goal of establishing a tobacco-free society. I fully support this.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We have come a long way in tobacco control in recent years. But we still have a long, long way to go – in particular if we are to reach sustainable development worldwide.
The Commission is committed to ensuring a sustainable European and global future, in which healthy citizens play an important part.
We will therefore work with Member States and countries around the world towards meeting the Sustainable Development targets.
My dream is a Tobacco Free world. A world that no longer needs "World No Tobacco Days" like today.
Let us all join forces and work together – with renewed energy and unshakeable commitment – towards a tobacco-free world.