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.
"We know that it is children, not adults, who start smoking. And despite the downward trend in most member states of adult smokers, the World Health Organization figures show worrying upward trends in a number of our member states of young smokers", said rapporteur Linda McAvan (S&D, UK). " We need to stop tobacco companies targeting young people with an array of gimmicky products and we need to make sure that cigarette packs carry effective warnings. In Canada, large pictorial warnings were introduced in 2001 and Youth smoking halved" she added.
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. However, MEPs rejected calls for a ban on slim cigarettes.
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.
700,000 deaths per year in the EU
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.
Ms McAvan was granted a mandate to negotiate a first-reading agreement with EU ministers. This mandate was approved by 620 votes to 43, with 14 abstentions.
Once the legislation is approved by the Council and Parliament, EU member states will have 18 months in which to translate the directive into their national laws, to run from the date when it enters into force. The deadline for phasing out flavours in general is three years, with five additional years for menthol (total eight years). Tobacco products that do not comply with the directive will be tolerated on the market for 24 months, and e-cigarettes for 36 months.
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