by Tonio Borg, European Commissioner for Health
Every year, 700 000 Europeans die from smoking-related causes. The Tobacco Products Directive, which was published on 29 April 2014 and will enter into force on 19 May 2014, is therefore an achievement for EU public health policy. By ensuring tobacco products on the EU market look and taste like tobacco products, the new harmonised rules on tobacco and related products will help reduce the number of people who start smoking in the EU – especially the young.
With 70% of smokers in Europe starting before the age of 18 and 94% before the age of 25, the ban on characterising flavours, such as fruit or menthol, which have been found to facilitate smoking uptake by masking harsher tobacco flavours, is particularly fitting. The same holds true for the ban on attractive lipstick-style cigarette packages which are often specifically targeted to girls and young women and do not ensure the full visibility of health warnings.
Large mandatory combined (picture and text) health warnings to be placed at the top edge of both sides of the pack of cigarettes and roll-your-own tobacco will serve as effective reminders of the severe health consequences of smoking, and help people make well-informed choices.
Finally, the provisions on nicotine-containing electronic cigarettes provide consumers with the reassurance that such products must comply with rules regarding their safety and quality.
The agreement on these and further measures, which collectively aim to reduce the number of smokers in the EU by 2% by 2020, is an important achievement, which will help to facilitate the internal market in tobacco products, while ensuring a high level of public health.
It is now up to Member States to transpose the Directive into national law. I have strongly encouraged Health Ministers at the Informal Council in Athens at the end of April to do so swiftly, so that their citizens benefit fully from the provisions of this important EU law.