European Commission adopts the revision of the Tobacco Products Directive
On 19 December 2012 the European Commission adopted a revision of the Tobacco Products Directive from 2001. Over the past 10 years existing tobacco products have changed significantly, which has gradually lead to the current legislation showing weaknesses, gaps and loopholes.
There have been many market, scientific and international developments in the tobacco sector. Attractive flavours and packaging of tobacco products are used to make them more appealing in particular to young people. New products are available such as electronic cigarettes. New evidence on additives used and effectiveness of health information messages has become available. Finally, the EU has a commitment to follow the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and Member States have taken different regulatory approaches. As a consequence, the current Directive needs updating taking these changes into account.
The revision of the directive addresses the following main issues:
Products covered by EU legislation will be extended and clarified: For example, electronic cigarettes containing nicotine over a certain threshold will only be allowed if they have been authorised as pharmaceuticals. Herbal products for smoking will carry warning labels to inform citizens about the health risks.
Labelling and packaging of tobacco products: Health warnings on cigarettes and roll-your own tobacco products will be larger and more prominent; pictures will be mandatory on both sides of the packet. Promotional and misleading elements will be prohibited.
Additives, such as flavourings, used in tobacco products: Cigarettes, roll-your-own and smokeless tobacco products that have a characterising flavour such as vanilla, chocolate or piña colada will be prohibited. Additives that create the impression that products have health benefits e.g. vitamins or are associated with energy and vitality e.g. caffeine and taurine will also be forbidden.
Internet sales of tobacco products: The internet sale of tobacco will be subject to stricter controls in terms of age verification and internet retailers will be obliged to notify their activity.
Tracking and tracing of these products: An EU-wide tracking and tracing system for cigarettes and roll-your-own tobacco will be introduced to reduce the amount of illicit products in the EU. Security features against counterfeiting will also allow consumers to verify the legal status of the products.
What will the benefits be?
Everybody, from governments to citizens, will benefit from improved public health. A healthy population is essential for productivity and prosperity and a key factor for economic growth.
Young people will be discouraged from taking up smoking, as there will be stricter rules on features that increase the attractiveness of tobacco products. This is particularly important considering that 70% of the smokers start before the age of 18 and 94% before the age of 25 years.
Smokers and non-smokers will be better informed to take decisions about the products with better health warnings and more control over ingredients.