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Brussels’ Latest Anti-tobacco Propaganda

Many would argue that paternalistic policies—in which the government makes decisions on behalf of individuals with the intention of promoting what is perceived as their best interests—are a necessary part of good governance and that the benefits outweigh any drawbacks. However, as the Nanny State Index has found, there is “little evidence that countries with more paternalistic policies enjoy greater health or longevity.” Instead, coercive nanny state policies create unseen problems.

In the context of public health, paternalistic policies might include regulations or restrictions aimed at reducing behaviours that are considered harmful. These interventions, though well-intentioned, can undermine personal freedoms and autonomy. They increase the cost of living and disproportionately affect low-income individuals. These high prices stimulate black market activities and corruption. Twelve countries now tax sugary drinks, up from five in 2017, despite the lack of evidence that such measures reduce obesity. Additionally, 15 countries tax e-cigarette fluid, compared to eight just five years ago, and two have banned e-cigarette sales altogether. Moreover, governments have overridden bar and restaurant owners’ authority in deciding smoking policies.

We often hear from our politicians that policy should “follow the science.” However, the science they use is often cherry-picked at best and nonsensical at worst. For example, in the last couple of years, researchers have found that vaping is less harmful than smoking. This is especially important for people who are looking for an alternative to smoking or need help quitting it altogether. As the UK’s NHS notes, “nicotine itself is not very harmful and has been used safely for many years in medicines to help people stop smoking.” So, in light of this information, it seems naive for governments to place new prohibitions and regulations on products for tobacco harm reduction.

To make matters worse, politicians and bureaucrats sometimes try to push these new regulations through the back door. Leaked documents suggest a silent collaboration between the European Commission and the European Council to influence the World Health Organisation (WHO) tobacco treaty and, by doing so, nudge the European Parliament into hostile positions towards vapes and similar cigarette alternatives. 

These backroom manoeuvres to coalesce behind a nanny-state approach to nicotine policy, without going through the proper channels or actually following the science, undermine the principles of transparency, democracy, and civil liberties within the European Union and its member states. By choosing this path, Brussels’ bureaucrats are taking unilateral actions which not only sidestep the elected representatives in the European Parliament but also disregard the voices of millions of European consumers who have made the switch to smoke-free nicotine products. The use of international bodies like the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control to push unsound policies without consulting its members and their citizens raises serious questions about the EU’s commitment to respecting individual liberties and promoting public well-being.

The European Commission’s apparent manipulation of the upcoming COP10 meeting in Panama to endorse hostile WHO positions, and then present them as binding international law, does a disservice to European citizens. It evades the necessary democratic scrutiny and threatens the rights and choices of those who have chosen smoke-free alternatives to tobacco.

By pushing this approach, the EU is only deepening its legitimacy problems. As the elected body representing the people, the European Parliament should play a central role in shaping public policies, along with the governments of its member states. However, it appears unelected bureaucrats are making the decisions behind closed doors, excluding the very people who should have a say in their own well-being.

This situation only highlights the need for a more transparent and accountable decision-making process within the EU. It is essential that Brussels consults with member states and their elected representatives before imposing policies which have far-reaching consequences for public health and individual liberties. It is bad enough that our politicians at home jump at every opportunity to push paternalistic policies, but having Brussels compound the problem by supporting nanny statism at a global level is a substantial problem for civil liberties and scientific policymaking.

Source: European Conservative