Presentations given by members of the University of Bath’s Tobacco Control Research Group (TCRG) have contributed to a white paper published by the European Parliament Working Group on Tobacco.

The paper was developed following separate expert presentations that Dr Robert Branston, Dr Allen Gallagher and Dr Rosemary Hiscock gave to the working group in 2023.

As noted in the white paper, "Tobacco use is a major challenge for public health in Europe. Tobacco prematurely kills 700,000 people in Europe every year, about 15 % of whom are non-smokers.”

The purpose of the European Parliament Working Group on Tobacco is to raise awareness among the continent's parliamentarians on tobacco-related issues and attempt to counter the tobacco lobby’s disinformation campaigns. In this white paper, they report their findings and provide recommendations on how to "realise the wish for a Europe without tobacco”.


The recommendations within the paper can be broken down to:

  • Immediate revision of the Tobacco Taxation Directive and Tobacco Products Directive
  • Better control and monitoring of tobacco industry lobbying and improved transparency
  • Increased attempts to combat illicit trade
  • New legislation to protect the planet from smoking, new tobacco products and tobacco manufacturers
  • Attempts to prevent the consumption of tobacco and to support those who wish to stop smoking

These recommendations complement the recommendations set out by the Tobacco Control Research Group in its 2023 UK Tobacco Industry Interference Index 2023.

Tobacco taxes

In the presentation that he gave to the European Parliament, Dr Robert Branston, Associate Professor of Business Economics in the University’s School of Management, considered the benefits of raising taxes on tobacco products. He noted that “raising tobacco taxes is a 'win-win' solution [as] States protect their population and receive more tax revenues.”

Dr Branston recommended that policy-makers should consider bringing the taxation of roll-your-own tobacco in line with the levels of taxation on cigarettes, as otherwise consumers are encouraged to move to these lower priced products rather than considering quitting smoking.

Illicit trade

Dr Allen Gallagher, expert in contemporary practices of the illicit tobacco trade, contributed via his presentation to the European Parliament on the tobacco industry’s lobbying efforts on the European Union's (EU) “Track & Trace” (T&T) traceability system.

This section suggests that the efforts of tobacco multinationals to maximise their control over, and minimise external review of, T&T systems seriously restricts attempts to combat tobacco smuggling.

Dr Gallagher notes that "Parties to the Protocol should ensure their own tracking and tracing systems are fully consistent with the Protocol and its values rather than simply replicating the EU’s model", due to concerns about the EU system's compatibility with the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products. These concerns stem from the system's “mixed” governance approach and links between a majority of the organisations approved as data repositories for the system and the tobacco industry.

Dr Gallagher also recommends that the transparency register of European institutions is strengthened by requiring registered organisations to provide information on the identity of their members and the composition of the structures to which they are affiliated. This would help to ensure that lobbying efforts from industry-affiliated bodies are not concealed from policymakers.

Cigarette filters

Dr Rosemary Hiscock, whose work focuses on the supply chains of the tobacco industry, is included in the white paper as an expert on cigarette filters.

Cigarette filters are the most common littered item. They leach toxins (nicotine and other chemicals) and breakdown into plastic microfibres degrading the natural environment and costing billions per year in clean up.

Dr Hiscock’s section of the report, based on her presentation to the European Parliament, covers how filters were designed to “both make the experience of smoking more enjoyable and easier, especially for women and youth” and to “deceive the smoker about the real danger of the product” yet they do not reduce the health risk. Tobacco and filter companies have circumvented the EU cigarette menthol/flavour ban via filter flavour capsules sold separately, potentially increasing the attractiveness of smoking among young people.

In her section, Dr Hiscock supports a ban on cigarette filters as they lack health benefits but have proven environmental harms.

The TCRG hopes that this white paper and the recommendations within it can help to highlight these issues and encourage policymakers in the EU to further protect the public health of their populations.