New EU tobacco control measures
Linda McAvan, Member of the European Parliament, Rapporteur on the Tobacco Products Directive
Today, smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death in the EU. While a series of hard-fought tobacco control measures have cut the number of smokers in the EU, there is a worrying drift among young people. The vast majority of smokers start when they are children, not adults - 70% of smokers begin before their 18th birthday, many younger still. The main focus of the new Directive is therefore to make it harder for tobacco companies to recruit children. The new measures include bigger and more prominent graphic health warnings, which are proven to be effective in deterring non-smokers from picking up their first pack of cigarettes. The law will also ban gimmicky products, like pretty, slim "lipstick" packs and flavourings, which the tobacco industry uses to attract young people. The fast emerging market in electronic cigarettes will be regulated for the first time - so that smokers who use e-cigarettes to substitute can be confident that the products they buy are safe, effective, good quality, and properly labelled.
We often assume that Europe is ahead of the curve on public health measures, but on tobacco control measures we have started to fall behind: 63 countries already require picture warnings and Brazil, Australia, the USA and Canada all have lower smoking rates than the EU. So this Directive is essential if we are to catch up and come into line with our obligations under the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
Finding agreement has certainly taken a lot of hard work from a team of very committed people in the European Commission, national health ministries, the European Parliament and the public health community. But the benefits will be very real. One in two smokers dies of tobacco related diseases. By adopting the Tobacco Products Directive, we hope to see the upward trend in young people starting to smoke reversed.