Preventing young people from starting to smoke is the main aim of an update of European rules on tobacco products agreed by the Parliament on 26 February. With 700,000 deaths a year, smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the EU. Even though the number of smokers in EU is falling, one in four Europeans still smokes, while 94% of smokers are hooked before they turn 25.
Draft legislation updating the EU Tobacco Directive to make tobacco products less attractive to young people was endorsed by MEPs on Wednesday. This legislation, already informally agreed with EU health ministers, would require all packs to carry picture warnings covering 65% of their surface. E-cigarettes would be regulated, either as medicinal products if they claim to help smokers to quit, or as tobacco products.
Health warnings will cover two thirds of cigarette packs and e-cigarettes will be freely sold in stores, following final Parliamentary approval of new tobacco products legislation on 26 February. Already informally agreed with EU health ministers, the rules aim to make tobacco products less attractive to young people. E-cigarettes will be regulated as tobacco products, unless they are presented as having curative or preventative properties, then they are regulated as medicinal products.
Young people are less likely to take up smoking under new rules for tobacco products adopted by the Parliament on 8 October. Linda McAvan, a British member of the S&D group, will now be in charge of leading negotiations with the Council on a final version of the legislation. We talked to her about how the new rules could prevent young people from taking up the deadly habit and how it will affect people using e-cigarettes as an alternative.
The illicit trade in tobacco products costs EU countries €10 billion a year in lost tax revenues, according to estimates by the European Commission. Experts and MEPs met on 22 January to discuss how to tackle the issue and the role played by major tobacco producers. “The idea that we are winning the battle against smuggling is perhaps not quite true,” said Green Belgian MEP Bart Staes, vice-chair of the budgetary control committee, which helped to organise the hearing.
A draft law to make tobacco products less attractive to young people was passed by Parliament on Tuesday. 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.
E-cigarettes are often presented as a solution for smokers who want to quit their deadly habit but struggle to overcome their nicotine addiction, but how safe are they? Should they be regulated as medication or as tobacco products? These issues are currently being considered as part of a review of the tobacco products directive. MEPs also debated it with experts during a workshop on 7 May.
A ban on slim cigarettes and the use of flavourings in tobacco products were approved by the EP's public health committee on 10 July in a bid to make smoking less attractive for young people. The tougher rules also include a requirement for health warnings on every side of a cigarette pack, but leaves the door open for life-saving e-cigarettes. The new legislation should help to reduce the 700,000 people dying each year due to smoking, the EU's leading cause of preventable death.
During the September plenary, there will be a decisive vote on a proposal to update the tobacco directive. Find out more about it by watching the double interview with two members of the public health committee giving their views on the reform plans that the committee adopted on 10 July.