Tuesday

21st Aug 2018

Focus

Study: EU test undervalued toxicity of cigarettes

  • The Dutch study found that in some cigarettes the levels of tar was up to 26 times higher simply by using a different measurement system (Photo: Stas Svechnikov)

The test method currently used in the EU to determine levels of carbon monoxide, nicotine, and tar in cigarettes structurally underestimates the presence of those harmful substances, according to a Dutch study out this week.

Measured levels of tar were at least twice as high when using a different testing method, and up to 26 times as high, said the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) on Tuesday (12 June).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Cigarettes have minuscule holes, which smokers sometimes cover when they hold the cigarette with their fingers or mouth. During the official test clean air enters through these holes (Photo: Cameron Kirby)

Nicotine levels were between two and 17 times as high, and carbon monoxide between two and 20 times as high.

The RIVM tested 100 cigarettes using the so-called Canadian Intense (CI) method. Only one cigarette had values below the EU legal limit.

The RIVM and the Dutch deputy minister for health, Paul Blokhuis, said that the CI test procedure was more realistic than the one that is currently used in the EU, by the International Standards Organisation (ISO).

Both tests are done by machines.

The main difference was that in the method used by the Dutch, minuscule holes in the cigarettes were covered, just like many smokers sometimes do when they hold the cigarette with their fingers or mouth.

These filter ventilation holes are not covered during the standard EU test, and allow additional clean air to enter, diluting the measured levels of carbon monoxide, nicotine, and tar.

Blokhuis said in a letter to parliament on Tuesday he would inform the European Commission and the 27 other EU member states of the "worrying results", and ask health commission Vytenis Andriukaitis about any follow-up.

Commission spokeswoman Anca Paduraru told EUobserver in an email on Thursday, however, that the Netherlands had presented the issue in an expert group on 6 June, "but there was limited interest from the other member states to take this discussion forward at this point."

She added the issue could be discussed at a next meeting of the EU's expert group on tobacco policy.

No 'gold standard'

Spokeswoman Paduraru noted that during the revision of the tobacco products directive, there was not enough evidence to switch measurement methods.

"The commission is aware of the limitations of currently available methods for the measurement of tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide in cigarettes," she said.

"Current measurements methods (including Canadian Intense method) do not correspond to actual human exposure as the methods use machines for measurements," Paduraru added.

She also stressed that because the machine-based results were not properly reflecting actual smoking behaviour, cigarette packs no longer have the tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide levels on the labels.

According to the 2014 directive, the commission has the authority to propose a new test method.

"But in the absence of a gold standard and for the purpose of regulatory continuity, the International Standards Organisation methodologies continue to be used for emission measurements," said the commission spokeswoman.

"By 2021, the commission will report on the application of the tobacco products directive. If appropriate and based on the findings of the report, proposals for amending the directive may be expected," she added.

Filter ventilation 'was known'

The Dutch ministry of health published emails from three of the four major tobacco companies, in which they respond to the results.

In its response, British American Tobacco (BAT) refuted Blokhuis' statement that the Canadian Incense method estimated smoking behaviour more accurately.

"Smoking habits vary per individual, making it impracticable to design a test that adequately reflects human smoking habits," said BAT.

Imperial Tobacco made similar points, and added that the existence of the minuscule holes in cigarettes was no secret.

"The application of filter ventilation has been known, understood and permitted by EU regulators under all current and past European Tobacco regulation, most recently in the revised TPD, 2014," it said.

Tobacco company Philip Morris was quoted in Dutch newspaper Volkskrant on Thursday saying that it would accept a different testing method – but that in that case the legal limits would also have to change.

According to an EU-funded survey published last year, 26 percent of EU citizens said they were smokers, while 20 percent said they had once been smokers but since quit.

In particular Greece (37 percent), Bulgaria (36 percent) and France (36 percent) have a high share of smokers.

Interview

Dieselgate disappointed car-loving commissioner

Industry commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska often finds herself on opposite sides to the car industry, referring to diesel engines as the "technology of the past".

Allergic disease and asthma on the rise in Europe

The number of Europeans with allergies has been growing extensively since the mid-1950s. Although some European countries have reached a peak, the overall number of citizens with allergic diseases continues to grow.

News in Brief

  1. Italy allows boat with migrants to dock
  2. France's Total pulls out of Iran due to US sanctions
  3. Trump accuses EU and China of currency manipulation
  4. Swedish conservatives regret unsuccessful integration policies
  5. Record high measles cases hit Europe
  6. Swedish politician declares war on media
  7. Italy threatens to return migrants to Libya
  8. MEP accuses Maltese government of 'hate campaign'

Supported by

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  2. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  3. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  4. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  5. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  6. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  8. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  10. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  12. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma

Latest News

  1. UK sanctions appeal risks highlighting EU divisions
  2. Wind delays launch of European wind-mapping satellite
  3. Greece 'normal' again after end of crisis, EU says
  4. Putin strikes blow against Russia's isolation by Europe
  5. EU-China cooperation on CO2 storage lost in limbo
  6. Greece exits bailouts, but difficult path ahead
  7. EU gets record response on 'summertime' consultation
  8. 'Nativism' and the upcoming Swedish and Bavarian elections

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  4. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  6. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  8. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  9. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  11. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  12. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us