“Smoking kills – quit now”: New rules for tobacco products in the EU

The European Parliament approved today (20 May) a revised EU Tobacco Products Directive. The new directive strengthens the rules on how tobacco products are manufactured, produced and presented in the EU. It also introduces rules for certain tobacco-related products.

The European Commission explains that the directive aims to improve the functioning of the EU’s internal market for tobacco products, whilst assuring a high level of public health. The Commission refers to developments in three areas:

Firstly, new scientific evidence has emerged, for example on tobacco flavourings and on the effectiveness of health warnings.

Secondly, new products, such as electronic cigarettes and strongly flavoured tobacco products have emerged on the market.

Thirdly, there have been developments at international level over the past decade, to which EU Member States have responded with different regulatory approaches.

One of the most compelling reasons to strengthen the rules on tobacco products is the negative impact of tobacco consumption on people’s health. According to the Commission, tobacco use is responsible for an estimated 700 000 avoidable deaths in the EU every year.

The vast majority of smokers start when they are very young – 70% before their 18th birthday and 94% before the age of 25. The new directive aims to make tobacco products and tobacco consumption less attractive in the EU, in particular for young people.

A major change will be that cigarette and roll-your-own tobacco (RYO) packets will show larger and mandatory graphic health warnings with photos, text and cessation information on 65% of the front and the back of the packs.

Depicting the social and health impacts of smoking, the warnings are designed to discourage people from smoking or encourage them to quit.

Cigarettes and RYO tobacco products may no longer have characterising flavours such as menthol, vanilla or candy that mask the taste and smell of tobacco.

The tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide (TNCO) labelling on cigarettes and RYO tobacco will be replaced with an information message that informs consumers that “Tobacco smoke contains over 70 substances known to cause cancer.”

The Tobacco Products Directive does not ban e-cigarettes. Instead, for the first time, certain safety and quality requirements have been introduced for e-cigarettes containing nicotine.

Health warnings for e-cigarettes will become mandatory advising consumers that e-cigarettes contain nicotine and should not be used by non-smokers.

EU countries may prohibit cross-border distance sales of tobacco products, which give consumers –including the very young – access to products that do not comply with the Directive.

Last but not least new measures intended to combat the illegal trade in tobacco products will be introduced in 2019.

The Brussels Times (Source: European Commission)

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