A draft law to make tobacco products less attractive to young people was approved by the European Parliament on October 8 2013.
All packs should carry a health warning covering 65 per cent 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.
MEPs rejected a European Commission proposal to treat electronic cigarettes as medicinal products, a move that would have restricted sales.
“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,” rapporteur Linda McAvan (S&D, UK) said.
” 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,” McAvan said.
Current legislation requires that health warnings cover at least 30 per cent of the area of the front of the pack and 40 per cent of the back. MEPs want to increase this to 65 per cent. 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.
Electronic 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.
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.
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.
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 per cent in the EU15 in 2002 to 28 per cent in the EU 27 in 2012, the European Parliament said in a statement.
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.
Reacting to the European Parliament vote, European Health Commission Tonio Borg said: “I welcome the positive vote in today’s European Parliament plenary in favour of engaging in negotiations with the Council.
“We have witnessed a lively and thorough debate on the Commission’s proposal for the revision of the Tobacco Products proposal, and I would like to thank the MEPs for their support and to pay a special tribute to the rapporteur – Linda McAvan – for her commitment, determination, and important contribution towards securing this favourable vote.
“It’s not the end of the road but this will allow us to take the process of negotiations forward and to engage with Council in order to come to a meaningful agreement on the file,” Borg said.
He said that the Commission would now carefully analyse the amendments adopted on October 8, and define its position, so that negotiations can continue in trilogue.
“I am confident that the revised Directive on Tobacco Products can still be adopted within the mandate of the current Parliament. All institutional actors have to play their role since EU citizens expect all of us to act on tobacco and to adopt in the near future a new legislation which will put the EU on the frontline on a global stage,” Borg said.
(Photo: amr safey)