photo - Polish Radio
“Poland will not support the draft directive on tobacco,” said Health Ministry spokesman Krzysztof Bak, in an interview with Polish Radio.
“We are taking into account the consequences,” he added.
The Health Ministry had been instructed to prepare a document outlining the government's stance on the matter, but was obliged to draw on opinions from the ministries of agriculture, finance and the economy.
In spite of the Health Ministry's reference to 90,000 deaths in Poland per year as a result of smoking-related diseases, the opinions of the other ministries proved decisive.
The Ministry of Agriculture outlined that Poland is the largest exporter of tobacco products in the EU.
Revenues from these exports amount to 36 percent of those for all agricultural and food-related products.
Meanwhile, budget revenues in 2012 for taxes on tobacco products amounted to 20 million zloty (4.7 million euro).
In December, after the European Commission passed a proposal for the directive, Polish tobacco growers and cigarette manufacturers sent a letter to Prime Minister Donald Tusk, calling for the government to oppose the legislation.
“Polish tobacco growers will suffer, and the elimination of many plantations as well as reduced orders will mean corporations making redundancies,” wrote head of the Polish Tobacco Association Przemysław Noworyta, as cited by the Polish Press Agency (PAP).
The draft directive is intended “to deter young people from starting to smoking,” according to Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy, Tonio Borg, as quoted by the Europolitics daily.
Besides banning cigarettes that are supposedly “too attractive”, the draft legislation also seeks to ensure that cigarette packets carry health warnings that cover 75 percent of the front of each packet.
The Ministry of Agriculture has called on the government to form a coalition of EU member states that are against the ban.
Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry has forecast that if the legislation is passed, work on the directive will take about two years, and the prospective changes would not come into force until late 2014 or 2015. (nh)