Sunday

5th Feb 2023

EU lawmakers agree tobacco bill

  • E-cigarettes are a rapidly expanding market (Photo: lindsay-fox)

EU lawmakers reached an agreement on the new tobacco products bill after negotiators clashed on electronic cigarettes earlier in the week.

“It’s a happy day for anybody who wants to fight the use of tobacco,” EU commissioner for health Tonio Borg told reporters in Brussels on Wednesday (18 December).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The inter-institutional agreement means future health warning pictures are to cover 65 percent of cigarette packs and must appear on the top half of the pack. Packs with fewer than 20 cigarettes will be banned.

A ban on "characterising flavours,” such as vanilla, is to be upheld and will be extended to menthol in 2020.

Member states and the European Parliament had collided late Monday on how to best regulate e-cigarettes, a rapidly expanding industry said to be worth around €2 billion in the EU.

The talks stalled as EU diplomats on Tuesday refused to issue any official position while they ran over technical details to suss out safety concerns on the device.

Member states scaled back some of their initial demands, such as banning the sale of refillable cartridges, which currently account for much of the EU market.

They wanted a single-use e-cigarette, meaning the smoker would have to purchase a new one when the first one is empty.

Wednesday’s agreement means refillable cartridges for e-cigarettes would be allowed. But the commission could impose a blanket EU ban if at least three member states ban the refillables altogether.

The maximum permitted nicotine concentration level in the cartridge is set at 20 mg/ml, which is the equivalent to around a packet of normal cigarettes.

MEPs, for their part, were keen to keep the refillable model and say the safeguards are not justified on health grounds.

E-cigarettes will not be classified as medical products by the EU, but individual member states will be free to grant them the status if they want.

“Every member state can adopt more restrictive measures than those in the directive,” said Borg.

The co-legislators are set to vote on the bill next year before its adoption.

Amid the EU debate, industry giants, such as Philip Morris International, which owns the Marlboro brand, are looking for a big bang on e-smoking in 2014.

The firm recently said it will spend $100 million in research on “reduced-risk" products in 2014.

Swedish Green MEP Carl Schlyter, a vice chair on the EU parliament's health committee, told this website that Big Tobacco is not worried about the details of the EU rules.

“Whatever happens, it [e-smoking] will be profitable,” he said.

The bill was originally drafted by John Dalli, a Maltese politician who used to be the European Commission's health chief, but who left his job in 2012 in a lobbying scandal.

Dalli’s controversial dismissal led to allegations of insider moves to weaken the bill and undue influence of former commission officials working for tobacco-related law firms.

MEPs approve disputed tobacco law

The EU parliament has backed rules to tighten marketing and labelling of tobacco products, but the original proposal was weakened.

MEPs restrict child-friendly tobacco products

New EU-wide rules to curb smoking are likely over the summer, as MEPs backed a bill to restrict tobacco flavourings, adverts, and the sale of electronic cigarettes.

EU lobby register still riddled with errors

The EU's lobby register remains riddled with errors, with pro-transparency campaigners demanding better data and mandatory rules. The latest findings come amid a raft of proposals by the European Parliament president to weed out corruption in the wake of Qatargate.

Latest News

  1. Greece faces possible court over 'prison-like' EU-funded migration centres
  2. How the centre-right can take on hard-right and win big in 2024
  3. Top EU officials show Ukraine solidarity on risky trip
  4. MEPs launch anonymous drop-box for shady lobbying secrets
  5. Hawkish ECB rate-rise 'puts energy transition at risk'
  6. MEPs push for greater powers for workers' councils
  7. How Pavel won big as new Czech president — and why it matters
  8. French official to take on Islamophobia in EU

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Party of the European LeftJOB ALERT - Seeking a Communications Manager (FT) for our Brussels office!
  2. European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual & Reproductive Rights (EPF)Launch of the EPF Contraception Policy Atlas Europe 2023. 8th February. Register now.
  3. Europan Patent OfficeHydrogen patents for a clean energy future: A global trend analysis of innovation along hydrogen value chains
  4. Forum EuropeConnecting the World from the Skies calls for global cooperation in NTN rollout
  5. EFBWWCouncil issues disappointing position ignoring the threats posed by asbestos
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersLarge Nordic youth delegation at COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us