Special parliamentary committee on beating cancer concludes work.

UM – 12/2021

The European Parliament's Special Committee on Beating Cancer (BECA) adopted its report "Strengthening Europe's fight against cancer – towards a comprehensive and coordinated strategy" on 9 December. In addition to the draft report by Véronique Trillet-Lenoir (RENEW, FR), the vote was based on a large number of previously agreed amendments . It was the last time that the delegates met in this form. The special committee ends its work by adopting its own resolution. The mandate expires on 23 December. However, the European People's Party (EPP) is pressing for continuation.

Preventing tobacco use – the bone of contention

In the run-up to the vote, there has been some wrangling over a compromise on the prevention of tobacco use – one of the controversial issues in the committee. As the consumer trend shifts from traditional cigarettes to other tobacco or nicotine delivery products, the report should also provide timely responses to this and include products such as e-cigarettes. A number of amendment applications by the EPP have proposed "harm reduction" approaches and promoted e-cigarettes as a less harmful alternative where cessation of nicotine addiction is not possible. In contrast, many delegates were of the opinion that the goal should continue to be abstinence from tobacco or nicotine.  And - as one MEP noted during the BECA debate on October 14 - it should not be the special committee's job to help the industry sell its products. According to the health policy spokesman and negotiator of the EPP, Peter Liese, it was agreed as a compromise to push for a ban on flavourings that could appeal to children. However, adult smokers should still have access.

Alcohol warnings softened

The question of "moderate alcohol consumption" was also controversial. A balanced compromise was needed, according to the debate in the committee: awareness should be created that alcohol is carcinogenic. There would be no certain measure of safe alcohol consumption. Nevertheless, alcohol is to be given a milder label than tobacco. The warnings initially called for in the draft report in a prominent position have become simple health warnings. This has also given the topic of alcohol prevention some "punch".

Forgetting is good

The report also addresses the full range of the European Beating Cancer Plan, including inequalities across Europe in access to screening, early detection and care, the importance of social cohesion funds in building health infrastructure and, last but not least, the right to be forgotten. Banks and insurance companies should not be allowed to ask for and use information on any existing or survived cancer.

The repeated demands by the chairman of the BECA, Bartosz Arłukowicz (EPP/PL), for changes to the EU treaties so that more competences in the fight against cancer are bundled at the European level, are probably off the table. The prevailing view in BECA is that there is no need for new EU competences, but that better use should be made of existing competences. An EPP proposal to create a new subcommittee on health is also said not to have met with broad approval.