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Monday, September 19, 2005

Tobacco regulation in Europe

The tobacco industry is under fire in Europe. In my native country, Spain, the government requires tobacco companies to include warnings to the consumer covering at least 15 percent of the front of the pack. Now under new regulations coming from the European Union, tobacco companies will be forced to include a health warning to consumers covering at least 35 percent of the front of the pack. In addition to this the use of terms like “mild” or “light” will be banned. As you can imagine, these proposals have infuriated tobacco industry bosses. Still, there are many who think regulations should be even stronger. In my opinion, it is good to force tobacco companies to advise the consumers of the dangers of consuming tobacco products. Nevertheless, I also believe that businesses operating in free countries, like Spain, should be allowed some margin of market freedom. Although we know tobacco kills, so do hamburgers and a sedentary life. Should we force the fast food and furniture industries to include in their hamburgers and sofas labels warning the consumers that eating too much meat or becoming a couch potato may eventually kill you? I don’t think so. I don’t smoke, and I never will. I took this wise decision many years ago. Nonetheless, let us not forget that many others have taken the decision to smoke, and they have the right to do so. One last thing, if we force tobacco companies to shut down due to excessive regulations, who is going to take care of all the people who would become unemployed? That is something we have to take into consideration.

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