The morning session was devoted to the tobacco and associated industries. I slipped into the back as I had not been invited but was merely interested. The Commission had set up the meeting, and had given the industry about a week to prepare for it.
However I cannot say I was surprised by the way in which the meeting went. Most of the industry lobbyists kept pretty quiet through the whole morning (barring a woman from the association that makes air filters who fought her corner with great aplomb). The reason for this I surmise is a form of corporate Stockholm syndrome. Essentially they are afraid of the power of the Commission. I have seen this before with other industries.
"Well if we complain they will just make the legislation worse out of spite".Sow what happens is that the lobbying is about mitigating against individual amendments rather than the whole Directive. But I digress.
We were presented with the impact assessment, a plethora of facts and figures all given to support the proposal that the EU itself should take the lead in banning smoking in all enclosed areas.
One of the tobacco lot asked
"Then we can take it for granted that the Commission want a total smoking ban?"We were then pointed to the Green paper "Towards a Europe free from tobacco smoke" that states in its conclusions,
There came a big nod of the head, "That is the scope".
"Only a full smoking ban in all enclosed workplaces and public places, with minimum exemptions on humanitarian grounds can adequately protect the health of citizens and workers".This was no consultation, this was a long, drawn out and dull reading of an industry's death warrant.
The idea is to classify Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS) as a carcinogen and thus legislate with an amendment to the "Dangerous Substances Directive (67/548/EEC)".
So what about the science, the arguments? Well we were told that,
"80,000 people in the EU a year die from ETS". A pretty high figure indeed. But soto voce the fellow then said "of course if we were to take smokers out of this figure is would be massively reduced".They then referred to the Eurobarometer survey that told us that everybody wanted the EU to legislate. Well I have never seen a Eurobarometer survey that didn't tell the Commission that it should do more, faster and deeper. I don't think one exists. But this one was slightly different. As the Impact Assessment states, "The majority of prevalence estimates are self-reported". Or in other words the reliability of the data is shot to pieces.
No questions were allowed at the time so I patiently waited, and waited. Finally we were allowed to speak. I said,
"So correct me if I am wrong, you say that most of those who die from passive smoking are smokers?He then claimed that the figures were taken from a study that he hadn't looked at.
"So if I sit in a pub with a chum, and I am smoking, and he is smoking I get to die from his smoke not mine?"
"Oh come off it, you cannot be serious, how on earth can you possibly suggest that I am going to die from passive smoking when I am a smoker. Surely I will die from my own habit not somebody else's, and how could you tell, do the tumours look different?
As the meeting went on there came more comments like this. We were told that they had decided,
"That there were no possible technical solutions",Thus the people who make very impressive air filters were irrelevant. if we as a race really believed that, we would all still be living in caves and chucking stones at mammoth.
The idea, as it became increasingly clear was not to improve people's health, or even find a way in which non smokers did not have to smell smoke. Air quality and how to improve it was not on the agenda, what matters, and all that matters is to ban cigarettes. End. No other possibility.
After the meeting ended, someone came up to me,
"How on earth did you get in here? You get everywhere"I take that as an endorsement.