The alcohol prohibition in the United States from 1919 to 1933 and its ultimate failure clearly demonstrated that the banning of products for which there is a demand, does not cause such products to disappear, but rather forces their production and distribution into illegality. In addition to the social problems arising from wide-spread, organized crime, this, in turn creates serious public-health problems by virtue of the fact that the quality of the product as well as its formulation and distribution will be subject to no controls at all.
Over the past decades, a worldwide social consensus has emerged on the need to control and regulate tobacco products due to the health risk inherent to their consumption, and in particular, to prevent the supply of tobacco products to minors, and lastly to unambiguously inform adult smokers on the health risks of consuming tobacco products.
There is demonstrably no lack of regulators: the WHO with the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, whose signatories include the EU nation-states and the EU itself; the EU itself with the instrument of the Tobacco Products Directive as well the EU nation-states, and, in many cases, infra-national institutions, e.g. the German federal states with their laws protecting non-smokers. Given the great diversity of regulatory bodies, it is natural that the regulatory approaches are also quite diverse – and not entirely consistent in some cases: These range from pragmatic approaches to para-prohibitive and prohibitive concepts and proposals.
In line with the general social consensus1, the task facing tobacco wholesalers, vending-machine operators and distributors of tobacco products in the EU is to organize and implement the economically viable distribution of tobacco products from the factory gate to the retail outlet, in some cases right up to the adult consumer demanding tobacco products.
This implies primarily, but not exclusively, compliance with all relevant laws and regulations relating to tobacco products, their distribution, their trade, commercial law, tax law, labour law, traffic law, etc., etc.
As an umbrella organization for tobacco wholesale associations in the EU nation-states, the ETV constitutes a presence for the European tobacco wholesale trade in the discussion of (tobacco) regulation at EU level. However, it is neither our task nor our intention to prevent regulation itself. Rather, it is our aim to compile and furnish information for sensible, proportionate, implementable and functioning regulations in order to achieve the intended purpose (at the EU level, this is the functioning of the internal market; health-policy objectives remain the preserve of the EU nation states themselves) by sensible, proportionate means, and by respecting the principle of subsidiarity.
Paul Heinen, President