Sunday

30th Apr 2017

MEPs restrict child-friendly tobacco products

  • MEPs backed the bill to prevent young people from smoking (Photo: photos.de.tibo)

New EU-wide rules to curb smoking are likely to be adopted over the summer as MEPs backed a bill on Wednesday (26 February) to restrict tobacco use, flavourings, adverts, and the sale of electronic cigarettes.

With some 700,000 people dying of tobacco-related diseases every year in the EU, the plan is to prevent young people from picking up the habit in the first place. Around 94 percent of smokers are said to start before the age of 25.

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.

UK centre-left deputy Linda McAvan, who steered the file through the parliament, described the vote “as a big step forward for tobacco control.” She said it would help to prevent the next generation of smokers from being recruited.

Years of negotiations and intense lobbying have seen some of the European Commission’s original 2012 proposal watered down.

Despite the weakened text, parliament’s vote was still welcomed by anti-tobacco campaigners as an important contribution to saving lives.

“Today marks a genuine turning point for European tobacco control – and a huge stride towards a tobacco free Europe,” said Archie Turnbull, president of the Brussels-based Smoke Free Partnership.

The commission, for its part, had wanted an immediate ban on menthol cigarettes and slims, even larger warning labels, and to bolige people to get a doctor’s note to buy e-cigarettes.

The draft bill instead phases out menthols by 2020, reduces the warning labels on packs, and allows e-cigarettes to be sold without a prescription.

MEPs opted for the four-year delay on menthols because they are “consumed more by older smokers and less by younger people,” said an EU source close to the issue.

Others who called for an immediate ban argue menthols appeal to young people because chemicals suppress the cough reflex.

Poland, one of Europe’s largest tobacco producers, does not want the restrictions.

Philip Morris International (PMI) and British American Tobacco, among others, dominate Poland’s tobacco industry. The country is one of the major producers of menthols sold in the EU.

A EU official said Warsaw is likely to reject the bill in mid-March when it comes up for a qualified majority vote among member states. But it means Poland’s lone vote will not be enough to stop it.

“There is no reason to believe why apart from Poland there would be sufficient other member states to block this,” said the source.

Polish centre-right MEP Roza Grafin von Thun und Hohenstein backed the phase out on menthols, but her office told this website that Poles object to the EU telling them what they can and cannot smoke. An estimated one-third of the population smoke.

The rules

The bill requires mandatory picture and text health warnings covering 65 percent of the front and the back of cigarette packs. Packs with fewer than 20 cigarettes cannot be sold.

Cigarettes and roll your own tobacco won’t be allowed to taste like chocolate and other similar flavors but exceptions are made for pipe tobacco, cigars, cigarillos and smokeless products.

Rules for the electronic cigarettes are more relaxed in what is seen as a triumph for the industry by some MEPs.

“They won a huge victory,” Swedish Green MEP Carl Schlyter, a vice chair on the EU parliament's health committee, told this website.

“All member states wanted them to be approved in the pharma logic because the purpose of e-cigarettes is to help people to stop smoking or have yet another alternative to stop smoking,” he added.

The parliament instead buckled under industry pressure to make them a consumer product, he said.

The final compromise allows companies to sell electronic cigarettes as normal products without any medical oversight, unless they specifically advertise them as a way to stop smoking.

EU commissioner for health Tonio Borg welcomed the new safety and quality control rules on the devices, which he says will protect consumers from harm.

EU lawmakers agree tobacco bill

EU lawmakers reached an agreement on the new tobacco products bill after negotiators clashed on electronic cigarettes earlier in the week.

Tobacco giant initiates EU court challenge

Tobacco giant Philip Morris International wants to challenge new EU rules on tobacco to see if it can get the stricter labelling requirements changed.

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.

News in Brief

  1. Vote of no confidence prepared against Spanish PM
  2. Syria to buy Russian anti-missile system
  3. Germany seeks partial burka ban
  4. Libya has no plan to stop migration flows
  5. EU has no evidence of NGO-smuggler collusion in Libya
  6. Poland gets 'final warning' on logging in ancient forest
  7. Commission gives Italy final warning on air pollution
  8. Romania and Slovenia taken to court over environment policies

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCharlotte Hornets' Nicolas Batum Tells Kids to "Eat Well, Drink Well, Move!"
  2. ECR GroupSyed Kamall: We Need a New, More Honest Relationship With Turkey
  3. Counter BalanceParliament Sends Strong Signal to the EIB: Time to Act on Climate Change
  4. ACCARisks and Opportunities of Blockchain and Shared Ledgers Technologies in Financial Services
  5. UNICEFRace Against Time to Save Millions of Lives in Yemen
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersDeveloping Independent Russian-Language Media in the Baltic Countries
  7. Swedish EnterprisesReform of the European Electricity Market: Lessons from the Nordics, Brussels 2 May
  8. Malta EU 2017Green Light Given for New EU Regulation to Bolster External Border Checks
  9. Counter BalanceCall for EU Commission to Withdraw Support of Trans-Adriatic Pipeline
  10. ACCAEconomic Confidence at Highest Since 2015
  11. European Federation of Allergy and Airways60%-90% of Your Life Is Spent Indoors. How Does Poor Indoor Air Quality Affect You?
  12. European Gaming and Betting AssociationCJEU Confirms Obligation for a Transparent Licensing Process

Latest News

  1. EU boasts unity on Brexit talks
  2. May’s election juggernaut
  3. EPP scolds Orban over university and NGO laws
  4. Oxford-Studie besorgt über 'Schrott' News in Frankreich
  5. Alte Freundschaft zwischen Le Pen und Putin
  6. EP chief faces questions after homophobic 'summit'
  7. EU signals Northern Ireland could join if united with Ireland
  8. One year later: EU right to open internet still virtual