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Putting smokers off smoking - 20/12/2012

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New plan to ban both strong flavours that disguise tobacco and misleading claims such as ‘light’ and ‘mild’ on cigarette packets.

Every year, smoking kills almost 700 000 people in Europe. That’s roughly the population of a city the size of Frankfurt. Millions more suffer from illnesses associated with smoking, such as cancer and cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.

Current EU laws are11 years old and outdated. We now know more about the flavourings used in tobacco and the effectiveness of health warnings.

New products are also on the market, and EU countries have reacted differently in introducing laws on manufacture, presentation and sales. The result is more protection in some EU countries than in others.

The Commission’s new plan affects:

Labelling and packaging – all cigarette and rolling tobacco packets must have both picture and text health warnings covering 75% of the surface. Each packet will also inform smokers that tobacco smoke contains more than 70 substances that cause cancer.

Ingredients – all cigarettes, rolling and smokeless tobacco that have a strong flavour that disguises the taste of tobacco will be banned, as will products with higher-than-normal toxicity and addictiveness.

Smokeless tobacco – the ban on snus – a variant of snuff – remains, except in Sweden, which has an exemption. All products must carry health warnings, and manufacturers must inform the authorities before placing new products on the market.

Products containing nicotine – when the nicotine level is below a certain threshold, packets must carry a health warning, as must herbal cigarettes. Above this threshold, products are only authorised when medicinal.

Online purchases – age verification will ensure tobacco is not sold to children or teenagers.

Illegal trade – a tracking and tracing system, along with security features such as holograms, will make sure that only products complying with EU rules are sold in the EU.

The commission hopes these new measures will make smoking less attractive and discourage young people from starting. Some 70% of smokers currently start before the age of 18, and 94% before 25.

More on EU tobacco policy

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