Sunday

23rd Apr 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.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

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.

Feature

How a Swedish love mob fights online hate

A Swedish group helping people to take the fight against online hate and lies had busy days after the recent terrorist attack in Stockholm.

MEPs set out to give posted workers equal pay

A revision of the posted workers directive aims to make the single market fairer, but critics see efforts to root out "social dumping" as disguised protectionism.

Feature

Civil society steps in to fight rising obesity

By 2030, it is estimated that more than 50 percent of Europeans will be obese. With a lack of public policies and coherent strategies, civil society is often the one trying to find a solution.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersDeveloping Independent Russian-Language Media in the Baltic Countries
  2. Swedish EnterprisesReform of the European Electricity Market: Lessons from the Nordics, Brussels 2 May
  3. Malta EU 2017Green Light Given for New EU Regulation to Bolster External Border Checks
  4. Counter BalanceCall for EU Commission to Withdraw Support of Trans-Adriatic Pipeline
  5. ACCAEconomic Confidence at Highest Since 2015
  6. European Federation of Allergy and Airways60%-90% of Your Life Is Spent Indoors. How Does Poor Indoor Air Quality Affect You?
  7. European Gaming and Betting AssociationCJEU Confirms Obligation for a Transparent Licensing Process
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region and the US: A Time of Warlike Rhetoric and Militarisation?
  9. European Free AllianceEFA MEPs Vote in Favor of European Parliament's Brexit Mandate
  10. Mission of China to the EUXinhua Insight: China to Open up Like Never Before
  11. World VisionViolence Becomes New Normal for Syrian Children
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsTime to Turn the Tide and End Repression of Central Asia's Civil Society

Latest News

  1. France holds nail-biting 'anti-system' vote
  2. Le Pen-Putin friendship goes back a long way
  3. Mogherini should tell Russians their rights matter
  4. Le Pens Freunde aus dem Trump Tower
  5. Sexe et mensonges: l'information russe sur l'UE
  6. Report: Post-Brexit payments, ECJ jurisdiction could last years
  7. Oxford study raises alarm on 'junk' news in France
  8. Thousands to march in defence of science