October 24, 2017
by Forest EU

Tonight in Strasbourg: ‘Over-regulation of consumer choices’ dinner

Consumers of tobacco, alcohol, soft drinks and processed food shouldn’t be the victims of excessive regulations and taxation.


Forest EU is organising a working dinner tonight in Strasbourg to discuss the over-regulation of consumer choices.

The by invitation only event will take place outside the French seat of the European Parliament, where MEPs are in session this week.

What is currently happening in Ireland – the introduction of plain packaging of tobacco, the forthcoming sugar tax and calls for minimum pricing of alcohol – illustrates all too well what we want to underline with this working dinner.

Over the past years, a series of restrictions on common consumer goods have been imposed across Europe*.

Measures include punitive taxes on products like tobacco, alcohol, soft drinks, processed food and other goods, but also excessive health warnings and finally restrictions on the advertising, labelling, selling and consuming of these products.

It is as if extreme regulations on tobacco are increasingly being seen as templates for regulations of other products.

If you don’t smoke but enjoy alcohol, sugary drinks and convenience food you should be concerned by sky-high taxes, consumption bans and ugly, paternalistic packaging because this kind of regulations are coming for your choices, too.

And when all these products are being ‘denormalised’, the result is the ostracisation of their users – all of them – from normal society.

The way these measures are being discussed and implemented is also very concerning. The real stakeholders – those who are actually materially affected by the policies – i.e. the consumers and the various elements of the industry, are being sidelined or simply excluded from the policy-making process.

In the meantime, self-appointed busybodies have managed to get themselves considered as stakeholders, often the primary stakeholders, despite the fact that having a special-interest political opinion about what should be done does not make someone a stakeholder.

We fear this is turning into over-regulation, limiting consumer freedom of choice while undermining the principles of tolerance and good governance that Europe is based upon.

Forest EU is organising this dinner to collect the MEPs’ views on a different direction for consumer goods policy and to signpost a better balance between freedom of choice and governmental regulation.

It is our view that tobacco, alcohol, soft drinks and processed food are legal products and that the law should not impose excessive regulations on consumers who know the health risks and don’t need this type of bossiness.

*Sales and marketing restrictions on tobacco, food, drinks and alcohol products have piled up over the years in Europe:

2016: tobacco plain packaging, levy on soft drinks with added sugar in the UK and sugar tax on drinks in Belgium

2014: the revised TPD makes health warnings cover 65% of tobacco packaging

2012: sugary drinks tax in France

2011: fat tax in Denmark, special tax in foods with high fat, salt or sugar content in Hungary

2010: the WHO sets its global strategy to reduce harmful use of alcohol

2007: the EU sets its strategy on nutrition, overweight and obesity

2006: the EU sets its alcohol strategy

2005: the EU sets its platform for action on diet, physical activity and health

2004: the WHO sets its global strategy on diet, physical activity and health

2003: the WHO sets its Framework convention on tobacco control and the EU gets its tobacco advertising directive

2001: the EU sets its tobacco products directive (TPD)

1994: Finland bans adverts of alcohol above 22%

1991: France bans alcohol advertising on TV and in cinemas and sponsoring of cultural and sporting events

1990: Spain bans TV ads of alcohol products above 20%

1975: Germany bans TV advertising of tobacco

1965: the UK bans TV advertising of tobacco

1962: Italy bans TV advertising of tobacco

Featured image: “Parlement Européen” by Caroline Alexandre is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

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About Forest EU

Since 1979, Forest has been the leading voice in defending the rights of tobacco consumers and tolerant non-smokers. As an advocacy campaign, Forest EU informs consumers about issues that affect them in the European Union and engages with stakeholders so the views of informed adults are taken into account within the EU’s decision-making process. Forest EU doesn’t encourage smoking, accepts there are serious health risks associated with smoking tobacco and represents the consumer, not the tobacco industry. For more information, visit http://forestonline.eu/.

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