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Tougher European rules on tobacco

WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks
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26th February 2014 – Health campaigners are hailing a decision by the European Parliament to endorse tougher new rules to make tobacco products less attractive to younger people.

The legislation, which has already been informally agreed with EU health ministers, would require all cigarette packs to carry pictorial health warnings covering the majority of their surface.

The draft legislation would also regulate electronic cigarettes (e- cigarettes) either as medicinal products if they claim to help smokers to quit, or as tobacco products.

The legislation was approved by 514 votes to 66, with 58 abstentions.

'Big step forward for tobacco control'

After the vote, Labour MEP Linda McAvan, who steered the proposed law through the European Parliament, said in a statement: "This is the culmination of years of work against the background of intense lobbying from the tobacco industry and its front groups. The new measures are a big step forward for tobacco control, and will help to prevent the next generation of smokers from being recruited."

The draft legislation would mean:

  • More prominent health warnings: Current legislation requires that health warnings cover at least 30% of the area of the front of the pack and 40% of the back. The proposed text would increase this to 65%, front and back, and would require these warnings to be in picture form - something that does not happen in the majority of member states at the moment.
  • Controls on e- cigarettes: E-cigarettes would be regulated, either as medicinal products, if they are marketed as a quitting aid, or alternatively as tobacco products. In the latter case, their nicotine concentration should not exceed 20 mg/ml. Refillable e-cigarettes would be allowed. Electronic cigarettes should be childproof and should carry health warnings. They would be subject to the same advertising restrictions as tobacco products.
  • Tighter controls on additives: There will be a ban on flavourings in cigarettes and roll-your-own tobacco that would make the product more attractive by giving it a 'characterising flavour'. Menthol would be banned from 2020. Flavours would be allowed for water pipe tobacco. Certain additives which are damaging to health would be banned.
  • Anti-smuggling measures: New 'tracking and tracing' measures to help prevent tobacco smuggling.

Linda McAvan says: "Cigarettes will not be so appealing when chocolate and strawberry flavouring, designed to lure young people into a life-long addiction, have been removed from the product making them harder to smoke. Or when they come out of a large, unattractive box covered with graphic health warnings, rather than a slim perfume-style packet.

"The move will also pave the way for the UK government to go even further and introduce standardised packaging for cigarettes, as is the case in Australia."

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