A draft law to make tobacco products less attractive to young people was passed by the European Parliament yesterday All packs should carry a health warning covering 65% of their surface. Fruit, menthol flavours and small packs should be banned, and electronic cigarettes should be regulated but as medicinal products only if they claim curative or preventive properties, says the approved text.
It is a ground-breaking piece of legislation put together and piloted through the European Parliament by the rapporteur, Linda McAvan, my EPLP colleague. Congratulations to Linda for producing this report which will now be discussed at the Council of Ministers (member state governments).
Twelve years after the current directive entered into force, smoking remains the principal preventable cause of death and about 700,000 people die of it each year. Over the years, measures taken to discourage smoking have helped to reduce the proportion of EU citizens who smoke from 40% in the EU15 in 2002 to 28% in the EU 27 in 2012.
Despite heavy lobbying by the tobacco industry, there is no doubt that the draft legislation will be effective. Its main points are:
Health warnings: two-thirds of the pack, front and back
Current legislation requires that health warnings cover at least 30% of the area of the front of the pack and 40% of the back. MEPs want to increase this to 65%. The brand should appear on the bottom of the packet. Packs of fewer than 20 cigarettes would be banned.
E-cigarettes should be regulated, but not be subject to the same rules as medicinal products unless they are presented as having curative or preventive properties. Those for which no such claims are made should contain no more than 30mg/ml of nicotine, should carry health warnings and should not be sold to anyone under 18 years old. Manufacturers and importers would also have to supply the competent authorities with a list of all the ingredients that they contain. Finally, e-cigarettes would be subject to the same advertising restrictions as tobacco products.
Additives listed, flavours banned
MEPs oppose the use of additives and flavourings in tobacco products that would make the product more attractive by giving it a characterising flavour. Additives essential to produce tobacco, such as sugar, would be authorised, as would other explicitly listed substances in stated concentrations. To obtain an authorisation for an additive, manufacturers would have to apply to the European Commission.
Combating illegal trade
To reduce the number of illegal tobacco products on the market, member states should guarantee that single packets and transport packaging are identified with a mark enabling them to be traced, say MEPs.