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.