There are concerns that the most recent work undertaken as part of the EU Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) both contradicts and ignores a number of industry inputs and previous recommendations to combat the illicit trade in tobacco products.
In response to the public consultation being organised by the EC’s Directorate General for Health and Food Safety (DG Santé), the International Tax Stamp Association has raised a number of legal and technical concerns over the options included in the Inception Impact Assessment published earlier this year to assist with the implementation of a secondary legislation for traceability and security features, as required under Articles 15 and 16 of the EU TPD.
Among the key anomalies highlighted by ITSA is that the Assessment fails to fully take into consideration the provisions of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), now ratified by the EU, which clearly disqualifies some of the governance model options now being contemplated.
In addition, ITSA is concerned that the public consultation survey appears to favour information technologies exclusively – something that completely ignores best practice and previous work carried out on supply chain authentication technologies.
For example, an EC feasibility study published in 2015 that recognised the potential benefits of combining TPD requirements with existing Member State tax stamp programmes was not mentioned in the Inception Impact Assessment.
Nicola Sudan, General Secretary of ITSA, said: “We believe it is important to raise the fact that over 20 EU member states currently use tobacco tax stamps, most of which already carry – or have the potential to carry – a combination of the kind of material-based security features and digital technologies that will be required under the TPD.
“In addition, by being positioned over the opening of a tobacco package, the stamps act as an anti-tampering seal, which is another requirement of the Directive.”
Since the great majority of tobacco manufacturers are already equipped with tax stamp applicators on their production lines, ITSA says that any continued use of this equipment for reasons of TPD compliance would be neither over-burdensome nor costly to manufacturers.
In addition, tax stamp technologies can be used by small and large producers alike and take account of the need for a level playing field, avoiding unfair advantage to a minority of largeoligopolistic actors in the tobacco market.
In summary, Nicola Sudan said: “ITSA believes that truly robust solutions must combine material and digital security technologies - a view that is recognised by both the WHO FCTC and the EU TPD.
“This union of physical and digital features is essential to ensure that the combined objectives of authentication, traceability and tamper-evidence is achieved – which is something that information technologies alone are not able to do.”