Philippe Boucher's Rendez-vous with . . . Jules Maaten

Rendez-vous with . . . Jules Maaten

Member of the European Parliament
Strasbourg, France

By Philippe Boucher

Rendez-vous 104
Friday, June 29 , 2001

PB : Thank you Jules for accepting our rendez-vous.
May I ask you to introduce yourself ?

Jules Maaten: My name is Jules Maaten, I am a Member of the European Parliament, Dutch liberal, I have a background in international party-political work. I became involved in tobacco control through the Parliament's environment committee and had a personal interest in the issue as a former smoker who strongly supports health information.

Q1. The European Parliament adopted new regulations about cigarette packaging.
What provisions do you consider the main improvements? are you satisfied with them? we how do you think they compare with the new Canadian regulations?

JM: I am satisfied with the European regulations which are more and further reaching than one could have expected before, especially regarding the warnings and control of ingredients. The Canadian regulations are of course further reaching and I still like especially their slogans. The texts of their warnings are what I should like the EU to come to one day. Also they are based on sound research and in my view really work for a smoker's mind.

Q2. The tobacco industry is famous for it's lobbying strength. What has been your experience? and on the other side, how would you rate the involvement and support of the health ngo's?

JM: There has been a lot of lobbying from all sides and I had a very good co-operation with many of the lobbyists, from NGOs and others. It has been obvious from the beginning that the different tobacco companies are strong in lobbying, however the experience in dealing with this directive was not as one might have imagined after seeing "The Insider"! In the beginning I was surprised to realize that there were also different approaches between the different actors in the tobacco business and not only between companies producing different tobacco products, but also among different cigarette producers.

Q3. There are other tobacco control measures still debated at the EU level, like a new version of the advertising and promotion directive or the efforts to harmonize taxes. Are you participating in those tasks? are there progresses to report?
Could/should the Parliament push for additional tobacco control measures?

JM: I am not so far involved in the debates on the advertisement . I believe that advertisement plays a strong role in getting young people to smoke and in keeping others smoking it is therefore a very important issue if one wants to prevent young people from taking up smoking.

Q4. What are today's budget and staff devoted by the Commission to tobacco control ? are they adequate ? how do they compare with the amount of money the Commission derives from tobacco taxes? I tried, in vain, to obtain such a figure, I assume part of the VAT imposed by each state on tobacco products is paid back to the EU but how much is that, country by country as well as globally?

JM: They are not adequate, the work with tobacco control embraces many different aspects and more staff is needed to handle all of them. (Editor's note: for the exact numbers, Jules Maaten referred us to the European Commission's services. We have contacted them and they are collecting the data. We'll share them with you as soon as we get them.)

Q5. This year, World no tobacco day (May 31) is devoted to passive smoking. Is there anything the EU should/could do as far as environmental tobacco smoke is concerned? (beside the positive step of adding a bigger warning about ets on the cigarette packs ?)

JM: This is definitely an issue that MEPs should take up, also in the organization of their own work in the Parliament.

Q6. Is there anything else you would like to add?

JM: I want to stress that people should be allowed to make a free choice whether they want to smoke or not, but it should a conscious choice and people should be informed about the health aspects and that it means they will have to deal with an addiction.

PB: Thank you Jules for taking the time to be with us today.

Rendez-vous is supported by a contract from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
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