3rd Jul 2022

MEPs crack down on cigarette advertising

  • MEPs shied away from a total ban on advertising (Photo: Kino Praxis)

Health warnings must cover at least 75 percent of the surface of cigarette packs, according to the European Parliament's public health committee.

In a bid to dissuade the young from taking up the habit, lawmakers voted on Wednesday and Thursday (10-11 July) to ban fashionable slim cigarettes with a diameter of less than 7.5 millimetres, as would flavoured cigarettes such as menthol and fruit flavoured. Packets with fewer than 20 cigarettes would be also prohibited, as would labels such as light and ultralight which imply that some products are less harmful.

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However, MEPs shied away from a total ban on advertising that would seen plain packs which are used in Ireland.

The vote follows a sustained lobbying effort of MEPs by the tobacco industry and public health organisation. Deputies tabled 1,360 amendments to the Commission proposal.

Corporate Europe Observatory, a transparency-promoting NGO, estimates that there are 97 full time tobacco lobbyists working in Brussels, with an annual lobbying budget of around €5.3 million. It also claimed that there were examples of MEPs tabling amendments very similar to off-the-peg amendments circulated to deputies from industry as suggested amendments.

Linda McAvan, the British labour MEP who is responsible for piloting the legislation through Parliament, was clear that her aim was to prevent new smokers. "The focus is to prevent the industry from recruiting new smokers among the young."

“There is a worrying drift: 29% of young people smoke.”

Karl Heinz Florenz, a German centre-right deputy, concurred. "The important thing is to turn young people off smoking. We do not need plain packaging to do that," he said.

MEPs are expected to debate the legislation in September before seeking a deal with ministers before the end of 2013.

But Michael Jaeger, General Secretary of the Taxpayers Association of Europe, described the demands of MEPs as "excessive" and "serious market interventions".

“Prevention is the right way, but interventions that destroy jobs unfoundedly and that lead to serious tax losses are wrong," he added.

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