European Union law and NCD prevention

The Law & NCD Unit has been at the forefront of the academic debates relating to the role that the EU has played, and could play, in preventing NCDs. The Unit has developed specific expertise on a range of issues, from overarching issues such as the scope of EU competence or the impact of EU internal market law on Member States’ NCD prevention strategies, to more specific issues, such as tobacco standardised packaging or alcohol minimum unit pricing.

    Understanding the role of the EU in preventing NCDs

    Despite the EU's limited competence in public health, the EU has progressively recognised the impact of NCDs on its economy and the well-being of its citizens. In particular, given the significant population differences in life expectancy, premature mortality and preventable morbidity between and within Member States, the resulting health inequalities seem inconsistent with the EU's core values and objectives.

    The Law & NCD Unit has explored the challenges involved in developing a body of EU rules intended to prevent NCDs, delineating the contours of possible EU regulatory interventions and the implications of the key constitutional principles on which all EU intervention must rest for NCD prevention (not least the principles of attributed powers, subsidiarity and proportionality, as well as respect for fundamental rights). Furthermore, members of the Law & NCD Unit have carried out extensive reviews of the contribution of the EU to the prevention and control of NCDs in Europe, and have critically assessed the contribution in light of the commitments the EU and its Member States have made to reduce the prevalence and burden of NCDs and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

    • Following the publication of her book, EU Law and Obesity Prevention (Kluwer Law International, 2010), Amandine Garde extended her expertise to other NCD risk factors, including tobacco and alcohol. Together with Alberto Alemanno (HEC Paris), Amandine organised the first conference on the role of the EU in preventing NCDs, which was held at HEC Paris in September 2012. The conference proceedings were the basis for the bok they edited on Regulating Lifestyle Risks: The EU, Alcohol, Tobacco and Unhealthy Diets (Cambridge University Press, 2015). As part of the project, Amandine Garde and Alberto Alemanno co-wrote a range of academic and policy publications for a variety of audiences in the EU and beyond, and have developed and delivered training programes for EU Member States and NGOs: for example, in september 2015, they gave a one-day workshop for member organisations of the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA), which provided strategic training for better NCD prevention advocacy through the use of priority policy tools and strategic approaches in the fields of alcohol, diets and tobacco. thier work has sought to map the regulatory landscape , and reframe law as both a source of opportunities and constraints within the complexities of delivering a multi-disciplinary and multi-level regulatory response to NCD prevention.
    • Several other members of the Law & NCD Unit have developed a specific and complementary expertise on EU law and NCD prevention: Nikhil Gokani is completing his PhD on the regulation of consumer information in Europe, with a specific focus on food and alcohol labelling, whilst Kirsten Ward is writing her PhD on fod taxes, assessing the UK sugar tax in light of EU and WTO trade rules more specifically.
    • The Unit also offers a range of teaching modules to both undergraduate and postgraduate law students, including an LLB module on Global Helath Law and NCD Prevention and a LLM module on Law and NCD Prevention in Europe.
    Understanding the relationship between EU and national law

    The Law & NCD Unit has contributed to a better understanding by public health actors of the impact that EU internal market rules have on national regulatory autonomy in both the UK and other Member States. In particular, the Unit has reflected on the margin of discretion that EU Member States have to ensure a high level of public health and consumer protection, and more specifically on the significance of the principles of non-discrimination and proportionality as interpreted by the rich case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union.

    Tobacco plain packaging and other tobacco control policies

    The Law & NCD Unit has developed its work on tobacco control policies particularly through engaging with the challenges involved in introducing standardised tobacco packaging at an EU and Member State level, and through participating in various legal capacity building initiatives on tobacco control to present the EU's tobacco control policy and how it relates to the laws of its Member States.

    Alcohol minimum unit pricing, sugar-sweetened beverages taxation, and other price-based mechanisms promoting better health

    The Law & NCD Unit has also participated in the debates on the legality of introducing product taxation, minumum unit pricing, and other price-based measures to promote healthier behaviours by increasing the price of commodities such as tobacco, alcoholic beverages and unhealthy food.

    • The Law & NCD Unit organised, jointly with HEC Paris, a two-day international conference on 'Taxation and Other Economic Incentives as Health-Promoting Tools: A Focus on Tobacco, Alcohol and Unhealthy Diets', held at the University of Liverpool London Campus in London in January 2017. This was attended by many policy actors, including the Irish Minister for Health, the Chair of the Health Select Committee of the House of Commons and representatives of Public Health England, the WHO, the European Commission and the WTO as well as many UK and international NGOs. This conference also led to an invitation to provide training on fod taxes to EU Member States at a seminar organised by the Health Directorate General of the European Commission, held in February 2017. It led to an invitation to present written and oral evidence at the hearing, in January 2018, of the Health and the Home Affairs Select Committees on the introduction of minimum unit pricing on alcoholoc beverages in England. 
    • Members of the Law & NCD Unit have participated in major policy meetings on minimum unit pricing including, for instance, and event organised by the Irish Delegation of the EU held in Brussels in September 2016.
    • The Unit is currently working, as a member of the Children's Food Campaign working party, on the legality of introducing restrictions on price promotions of unhealthy food and drinks, as one of the flagship measures envisaged in the second Chapter of the UK government's 'Childhood Obesity: A Plan for Action'.
    • We have also worked extensively on Regulating food and alcohol marketing to children and Ending childhood obesity: a legal challenge at global, EU and national levels.
    Our key academic publications on EU law and NCD prevention
    • A Garde, S Byrne, N Gokani and B Murphy, For a Children’s Rights Approach to Obesity Prevention: The Key Role of an Effective Implementation of the WHO Recommendations, European Journal of Risk Regulation (Vol. 8, special issue 2, July 2017)
    • A Garde, S Davies and J Landon, The UK Rules on Unhealthy Food Marketing to Children, European Journal of Risk Regulation (Vol. 8, special issue 2, July 2017)
    • A Garde, B Jeffery and N Rigby, Implementing the WHO Recommendations whilst Avoiding Real, Perceived or Potential Conflicts of Interest, European Journal of Risk Regulation (Vol. 8, special issue 2, July 2017)
    • O Bartlett and A Garde, The EU’s Failure to Support Member States in their Implementation of the WHO Recommendations: How to Ignore the Elephant in the Room?, European Journal of Risk Regulation (Vol. 8, special issue 2, July 2017)
    • A Garde, The Implementation in Europe of the World Health Organization Recommendations on Food Marketing to Children: Introduction to the Special Issue, European Journal of Risk Regulation (Vol. 8, special issue 2, July 2017)
    • M Friant-Perrot, A Garde and A Chansay, Regulating Food Marketing: France as a Disappointing Example, European Journal of Risk Regulation (Vol. 8, special issue 2, July 2017)
    • A Garde and G Xuereb, The WHO Recommendations on the Marketing of Food and Non-Alcoholic Beverages to Children, European Journal of Risk Regulation (Vol. 8, special issue 2, July 2017)
    • A Garde, The “Obesity Risk”: For an Effective Use of Law to Prevent Non-Communicable Diseases, European Journal of Risk Regulation (Vol. 8, issue 1, April 2017)
    • O Bartlett and A Garde, "EU public health law and policy – on the rocks? A few sobering thoughts on the growing EU alcohol problem" in T Hervey et al (eds), Research Handbook on EU Health Law and Policy (Elgar 2017)
    • O Bartlett, "The EU's Competence Gap in Public Health and Non-Communicable Disease Policy" (2016) 5 Cambridge Journal of International and Comparative Law 50
    • O Bartlett, "Towards an Assessment of Minimum Unit Pricing Measures without Properly Contextualising them?" (2016) 7(4) European Journal of Risk Regulation 810
    • O Bartlett, "Minimum Unit Pricing for Alcohol May Not be a Proportionate Public Health Intervention" (2016) 7(1) European Journal of Risk Regulation 21
    • A Alemanno and A Garde (eds), Regulating Lifestyle Risks The EU, Alcohol, Tobacco and Unhealthy Diets (Cambridge University Press, 2015)
    • A Alemanno and A Garde, "The emergence of EU lifestyle risk regulation: new trends in evidence, proportionality and judicial review', in H Micklitz and T Tridimas (eds), Risk in EU Law (Elgar, 2015)
    • A Alemanno and A Garde, "The Prevention of Non-Communicable Diseases in the European Union" in T Voon, A Mitchell and J Liberman (eds), Regulating Tobacco, Alcohol and Unhealthy Foods: The Legal Issues (Routledge, 2014)
    • O Bartlett, "Distilling Prospects: Reflections on the Proportionality of Minimum Unit Pricing under EU Law" (2014) 5(1) European Journal of Risk Regulation 73
    • A Alemanno and A Garde, "L'émergence d'une politique européenne sur les risques comportementaux: tabac, alcool et mauvaise alimentation" (2014) Revue du droit de l'Union européenne 27
    • A Garde, "Can the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive really be a Vector of Legal Certainty?" in W Van Boom, A Garde and O Akseli (eds), The European Unfair Commercial Practices Directive – Impact, Enforcement Strategies and National Legal Systems (Ashgate Publishing, 2014)
    • A Alemanno and A Garde, Legal opinion on the compatibility of the UK proposals to introduce standardised packaging on tobacco products with the EU Tobacco Products Directive (Action on Smoking and Health and Cancer Research UK, 2014)
    • M Friant-Perrot and A Garde, "L'action de l'Union européenne dans la lutte contre l'obésité', Actes du colloque qui s'est tenu à Louvain-la-Neuve, Anthémis, 2014
    • A Alemanno and A Garde, "The Emergence of an EU Lifestyle Policy: The Case of Alcohol, Tobacco and Unhealthy Diets" (2013) 50(6) Common Market Law Review
    • A Alemanno and A Garde, Regulating Lifestyles in Europe How to Prevent and Control Non-Communicable Diseases Associated with Tobacco, Alcohol and Unhealthy Diets? (Swedish Institute of European Policy Studies, 2013)
    • A Garde, "The Unfair Commercial Practices Directive: A Successful Example of Legislative Harmonisation?" in P Syrpis (ed), The Judiciary, the Legislature and the Internal Market (Cambridge University Press, 2012)
    • A Garde, "The Best Interest of the Child and EU Consumer Policy: A Major Gap between Theory and Practice?" in J Devenney and M Kenny (eds), The Theory and Practice of EU Consumer Law and Policy (Cambridge University Press, 2012)
    • A Garde, "Towards the Liberalisation of Product Placement on UK Television?" (2011) 16 Communications Law 93
    • A Garde, EU Law and Obesity Prevention (Kluwer Law International, 2010)
    • A Garde contributed to Liability and the Health Costs of Smoking European Commission, 2012)
    • The Unit's other publications can be found on our Publications page.