Monday

10th May 2021

Menthol cigarette ban is valid, says EU court

  • The court upheld a ban on menthol cigarettes, despite Polish objections (Photo: Piotr Drabik)

The European Union acted within its powers when it adopted rules on menthol cigarettes, packaging and electronic cigarettes, the Court of Justice has ruled, dismissing complaints from Poland and tobacco multinationals.

“The extensive standardisation of packaging, the future EU-wide prohibition on menthol cigarettes and the special rules for electronic cigarettes are lawful,” the Luxembourg-based court said in a press release on Wednesday (4 May).

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The court ruled in three separate cases, all related to the revised directive on tobacco products, which entered into force two years ago.

The first case was an attempt by Poland to overturn an EU-wide ban on menthol cigarettes, which will come into force in 2020.

The idea behind the ban is that pleasant flavours like menthol make tobacco products more attractive especially to young smokers.

Menthol cigarettes are more popular in Poland than in most EU countries. Poland also has roughly 60,000 people working in tobacco farms.

Poland said that national rules on cigarette flavourings were not so different from each other, but the court rejected its claim.

“There were significant divergences between the regulatory systems of the member states, given that some of them had established different lists of permitted or prohibited flavourings, whilst others had not adopted any specific rules on the matter,” the court said.

“Consequently, the court considers that such a prohibition facilitates the smooth functioning of the internal market for tobacco and related products and is at the same time appropriate for ensuring a high level of protection of human health, especially for young people."

The court also ruled on two cases that were referred from the British courts, where tobacco companies Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco had requested a review of the legality of the directive.

The directive includes standardisation of labelling and packaging of tobacco products, and a ban on promotional texts. It also allows member states to introduce so-called plain packaging.

The court ruled that standardisation was intended “to protect consumers against the risks associated with tobacco use and [the decision] does not go beyond what is necessary in order to achieve the objective pursued”.

Finally, the court also said new rules on electronic cigarettes were proportional and legitimate.

The new rules require manufacturers to ensure e-cigarettes do not pass a maximum level of nicotine, and to report ingredients of new products to member states, as well as to report annually about sales volumes of e-cigarettes.

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