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Removing attractiveness of tobacco products central to Commission tobacco packaging reforms
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Bigger health warnings and a ban of the use of strong flavourings are two measures outlined today in European Commission proposals to strengthen and revise current rules on how tobacco products can be manufactured, presented and sold in the European Union.  The goal is to make smoking less attractive and deter young people from starting to smoke in the first place.

European Commissioner in charge of Health & Consumer Policy, Tonio Borg said: "Consumers must not be cheated: Tobacco products should look and taste like tobacco products and this proposal ensures that attractive packaging and flavourings are not used as a marketing strategy".

    Removing attractiveness of tobacco products central to Commission tobacco packaging reforms

    He added: "The figures speak for themselves: tobacco kills half of its users and is highly addictive. With 70 per cent of the smokers starting before the age of 18, the ambition of today's proposal is to make tobacco products and smoking less attractive and thus discourage tobacco initiation among young people".

    Under the proposals packets of cigarettes and roll-your-own tobacco will have to contain a combined picture and text health warning covering 75 per cent of the front and back of packs. In addition, the current information on tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide, often perceived as misleading, will be replaced by a more informative message on the side of packs that tobacco smoke contains more than 70 cancer causing substances.

    The use of characterising "strong" flavours in cigarettes, roll-your-own tobacco and smokeless tobacco products will be banned, and so will any products with an increased toxicity and addictiveness.

    The revisions to the 2001 Tobacco Products Directive also include regulating cross-border internet sales and technical features to combat illicit trade. Chewing and nasal tobacco will be subject to specific labelling and ingredient regulations and for the first time measures will be introduced for e-cigarettes and herbal products.  The existing ban for oral tobacco (snus) will be maintained.

    The proposal will now be discussed by MEPs and member states' government ministers. It is expected to be adopted in 2014 and would come into effect from 2015-2016.

    Main elements of the proposal

    Labelling and Packaging: All cigarette and roll-your-own (RYO) packages must contain a combined picture and text health warning covering 75 per cent of the front and the back of the package and must carry no promotional elements. The current information on tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide, which is perceived as misleading, is replaced by an information message on the side of the pack that tobacco smoke contains more than 70 substances causing cancer. Member states remain free to introduce plain packaging in duly justified cases.

    Ingredients: An electronic reporting format for ingredients and emissions will be introduced. The proposal foresees a prohibition for cigarettes, roll-your-own tobacco and smokeless tobacco that have characterising flavours and a prohibition of products with increased toxicity and addictiveness.

    Smokeless tobacco and extension of the scope of the Directive: The ban on oral tobacco products (snus) is maintained, except for Sweden which has an exemption. All smokeless tobacco products must carry health warnings on the main surfaces of the package and products with characterising flavours cannot be sold. Novel tobacco products require prior notification.

    Extension of the scope of the directive: Nicotine Containing Products (eg electronic cigarettes) below a certain nicotine threshold are allowed on the market, but must feature health warnings; above this threshold such products are only allowed if authorised as medicinal products, like nicotine replacement therapies. Herbal cigarettes will have to carry health warnings.  

    Cross border distance sales: A notification for internet retailers and age verification mechanism are foreseen to ensure that tobacco products are not sold to children and adolescents.

    Illicit trade: A tracking and tracing system and security features (e.g. holograms) are foreseen to ensure that only products complying with the Directive are sold in the EU.


    The proposal follows extensive consultation of stakeholders, including a public consultation which generated 85,000 responses.  A thorough impact assessment has also been carried out, evaluating economic, social and health effects of policy options under consideration and several external studies were also commissioned. 

    Why a revision of EU law?

    Since the current Tobacco Products Directive (2001/37/EC) was introduced in 2001, significant scientific, market and international developments have taken place. For example, new evidence on flavourings used in tobacco products and effectiveness of health warnings has become available. Novel products such as electronic cigarettes have entered the market and recent marketing strategies involve the use of attractive packaging and flavours.

    At the international level, the EU and all of its member states have ratified the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) which entered into force in February 2005. Consequence, some of the provisions in the 2001 directive have become outdated.

    Member states have also taken different regulatory approaches resulting in a divergence between member states' laws on the manufacture, presentation and sale of tobacco products.

    Today's proposal is responding to all these developments as well as to requests from the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers and indeed the Commission's own report on the Application of the Tobacco Products Directive of 2007 and 2009 which identified potential areas for improvement.


    For more information, please contact the London press office on 020 7973 1971.
    Please note: all amounts expressed in sterling are for information purposes only.

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    Last update: 19/12/2012  |Top