The minister said on Wednesday that the European Parliament pushed back a vote on the tobacco directive for a month, until October 9, describing it as an achievement of lobbying by tobacco companies.
"This was really (a result of) direct meetings between hired lobbyists and certain MEPs. As many as 233 meetings with tobacco industry lobbyists were organized in 17 months. Around 31 percent of members of the parliament were influenced by lobbyists in one way or another," he said at a news conference.
He guessed that lobbyists probably mostly targeted MEPs representing tobacco-growing Southern European countries.
Tobacco companies were trying to delay the adoption of the directive, according to the minister. However, he said that he could not assert that the MEPs had been bribed.
“We hoped that we would get to know the general position [of the European Parliament] between September 9 and 11 and would be able to schedule the work. Now everything has become much more complicated. In addition, as you know, some countries voted against the initiative in the council, yet they did not form the blocking minority, so it’s not clear what will happen next in the council,” the minister explained.
The new tobacco directive includes a ban on flavored cigarettes and tobacco, as well as slim cigarettes in the EU. In addition, it imposes health warnings on packaging.
Around 650,000 people die of smoking-related diseases in the EU every year and approximately 13 million suffer from various chronic diseases caused by tobacco use.