Jörgen Warborn och Jessica Polfjärd

Swedish MEPs slam ‘misleading’ questions as TPD call for evidence ends

Two Swedish MEPs have written a sharply worded letter criticizing the European Commission’s recently closed public consultation to revise the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD). They want to see a more objective approach to tobacco control and harm reduction policies.

“To get honest answers, leading questions should be avoided. The European Commission has done the opposite,” stated Swedish MEP Jessica Pofjärd on Twitter in reference to the consultation, which concluded on May 16. 

The consultation was initiated by the European Commission as part of efforts to update two critical components of the EU’s tobacco control framework: the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) and the Tobacco Advertising Directive (TAD). The TPD regulates the manufacture, presentation, and sale of tobacco and related products, while the TAD sets limits on tobacco advertising in the EU.

Questionnaire’s neutrality in doubt

While the consultation was intended to promote transparency, the questionnaire left Polfjärd and her fellow Swedish MEP Jörgen Warborn unimpressed. In a sharply worded letter, the pair, both of the center-right Moderate Party, accused the Commission of using “misleading” language. 

“With wording, such as asking the respondent to rate the level of threat each type of product poses […] one would have reason to question the neutrality of this questionnaire,” the two point out in the letter, a copy of which they shared via Twitter

“Regardless of one’s attitude towards e.g. emerging products, it should still be a priority of a public consultation to receive honest answers not affected by leading questions. We would therefore kindly ask the Commission to consider re-wording the questionnaire.”

ETHRA: ‘inherent bias’ against harm reduction

The consultation’s outcome will play a pivotal role in shaping the future of EU tobacco control regulations. As a result, the MEP’s argued, it should be carried out in “as transparent and neutral a way as possible”.

The MEPs criticism was echoed by the European Tobacco Harm Reduction Association (ETHRA), an advocacy group representing 27 million safer nicotine product consumers across the EU.

“The questionnaire was constructed with inherent bias against harm reduction, to force answers in favor of measures making safer nicotine products less accessible or appealing,” ETHRA said in a statement critiquing the questionnaire

Despite concerns about the objectivity of the questionnaire, the consultation nevertheless elicited more than 17,000 responses, most of which were submitted by EU citizens.

It’s the second call for evidence related to proposed TPD revisions that has generated thousands of responses. On average, such calls for evidence generate fewer than 400 responses.