Friday

15th Nov 2019

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.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 year's of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

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.

NGO reveals German firms fail to meet UN human rights rule

A new report reveals that the biggest companies in Germany fail to manage measures to protect their employees and supply-chain from human rights abuses - ahead of the government deadline for introducing tough new regulation.

News in Brief

  1. Germany: EU banking union deal possible in December
  2. EIB: no more funding of fossil-fuel projects
  3. UK defence chief: Russia could trigger World War III
  4. Hungary's Varhelyi will face more questions
  5. Police put former Berlusconi MEP Comi under house arrest
  6. MEPs criticise Poland for criminalising sex education
  7. UK will not name new commissioner before election
  8. Trump expected to delay EU car tariff decision

Stakeholder

FIFA's schools programme aims to reach 700m children

Football clubs today invest huge sums of money in youth development and court talented young players from an early age. Children are the future – not only where football is concerned, but also for society in general.

Opinion

A fundamental contradiction in EU drug policy

The knock-on affects from a 'war on drugs' in Europe is creating problems in Albania - and as far afield as Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Bangladesh and the Philippines.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  3. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  5. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  6. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  7. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  9. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021

Latest News

  1. EU threatens legal action against UK over commissioner
  2. Corruption in the Balkans: the elephant in the room
  3. Green MEPs unconvinced by Romanian commissioner
  4. EU states fell short on sharing refugees, say auditors
  5. Hungary's commissioner-to-be grilled over loyalty to Orban
  6. Widow's plea as EU diplomats debate Magnitsky Act
  7. Leftist MEPs call on EU to address crisis in Chile
  8. Mustard gas and cod: Last chance to stop Nord Stream 2?

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us