Friday

21st Jul 2017

EU to ban menthol cigarettes, impose scary pictures

  • Borg shows example of what cigarette packs will look like in the EU 2014 or 2015 (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

All cigarette packs in the EU from 2015 onward will be plastered with images of diseased body parts, menthol, vanilla and slim cigarettes will be banned, while snus - a type of mouth tobacco - will not be sold outside Sweden, under European Commission proposals out on Wednesday (19 December).

The bill comes after a scandal which saw the health commissioner, Malta's John Dalli, lose his job because he allegedly solicited a bribe to pull the snus ban.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

It is also a big defeat for Sweden and for the tobacco industry - the commission estimates there will be 10 million fewer smokers five years after it comes into force.

The menthol ban alone will wipe out 20 percent of the market in some EU countries, such as Poland.

Dalli's successor, Tonio Borg, noted that smoking kills 700,000 people a year in Europe. "This means that a city the size of Palermo is wiped off the map every single year," he said.

He added the law is aimed at preventing young people from getting into the habit.

A former smoker himself, he said: "It's not because we treat people as if they were stupid, but we want to help EU citizens come to the right decision ... Smokers should not be treated like the lepers of modern times, but at the same time we should protect citizens who do not want to smoke."

He also said he did not water down Dalli's earlier draft of the bill in any way, a claim backed up by Dalli.

"I have seen a version of what has been proposed. I cannot see any relevant changes from my [earlier] proposal," Dalli told EUobserver by email.

Wednesday's bill sets the scene for fresh lobbying and politicking in the European Parliament and in EU countries' embassies in Brussels, which can still amend the law.

The centre-right EPP group in parliament immediately welcomed Borg's "balanced" text. But the centre-left S&D faction said it should force cigarettes to be sold in plain packs with the brand indicated only by a line of text, as in Australia.

For its part, cigarette maker Philip Morris, which made a profit of almost €7 billion last year, said the directive's "numerous flaws need to be addressed."

British American Tobacco (also €7 billion) said the bill is "not proportionate" and promised "to make our voice heard over the course of the next year" in the EU institutions.

In a sign of the tobacco lobby's power, Borg noted that he met on two occasions with Swedish ministers who urged him to lift the snus ban.

Tobacco lobbyists also get frequent meetings with top advisors to Borg's boss, commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso.

But for Epha, a Brussels-based anti-smoking NGO, Borg's bill indicates that big tobacco's message is falling on deaf ears.

"I hope this is a watershed moment for the relationship between the commission and the tobacco industry," its director, Monika Kosinska, said. "The directive proves that the commission did not listen to the lobbyists," Epha's Javier Delgado Rivera added.

Zooming in on snus, users insert pellets of the stuff against their gums, where tiny crystals on the surface of the product lacerate the skin to get nicotine into their bloodstream.

It is loved by Swedish right-wingers who see it as part of Swedish national identity.

It is also popular with children because they can use it, for instance, during class in school without the teacher being able to see.

"There is evidence to show that if you were to introduce snus into the European market, it would be a great success," Borg said.

MEPs crack down on cigarette advertising

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

News in Brief

  1. Polish parliament adopts controversial justice reform
  2. GMO opt-out plan unlikely to go anywhere in 2017
  3. Slovak PM threatens to boycott inferior food
  4. France takes Google's 'right to be forgotten' to EU court
  5. Turkey accuses German companies of supporting terror
  6. Israel's Netanyahu caught calling EU 'crazy'
  7. UK does not collect enough data to expel EU nationals
  8. Polish president threatens to veto justice reform

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  2. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference
  3. ECPAFood waste in the field can double without crop protection. #WithOrWithout #pesticides
  4. EU2017EEEstonia Allocates €1 Million to Alleviate Migratory Pressure From Libya in Italy
  5. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen's Message on the Anniversary of the Coup Attempt in Turkey
  6. Martens CentreWeeding out Fake News: An Approach to Social Media Regulation
  7. European Jewish CongressEJC Concerned by Normalisation of Antisemitic Tropes in Hungary
  8. Counter BalanceOut for Summer Episode 1: How the EIB Sweeps a Development Fiasco Under the Rug
  9. CESICESI to Participate in Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee on Postal Services
  10. ILGA-EuropeMalta Keeps on Rocking: Marriage Equality on Its Way
  11. European Friends of ArmeniaEuFoA Director and MEPs Comment on the Recent Conflict Escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh
  12. EU2017EEEstonian Presidency Kicks off Youth Programme With Coding Summer School

Latest News

  1. Dutch coalition talks lengthiest in 40 years
  2. Polish parliament steps up showdown with EU
  3. EU urges UK to clarify its Brexit positions
  4. Law expert: direct EU powers have become too complicated
  5. Winter is here for Spitzenkandidat, but he'll survive
  6. Mafia money pollutes the EU economy
  7. Central Europe should be wary of Brexit stopping
  8. Poland's 'July coup' and what it means for the judiciary