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EU strikes deal on tough new anti-tobacco rules

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EU strikes deal on tough new anti-tobacco rules


Main elements of deal on EU tobacco controls

    Health warning
  • Graphic picture and text warnings will have to cover 65 percent of the front and back of packets of cigarettes and other tobacco products for smoking. Current EU law demands that written health warnings cover 30 percent of a pack's front and 40 percent of the back, but pictures are not obligatory.
  • Text warnings will include phrases such as "Smoking kills - quit now" and "Tobacco smoke contains over 70 substances known to cause cancer."
  • Individual governments will be free to go beyond the minimum requirements and impose a ban on all branding, provided such "plain packaging" rules are justified on public health grounds and notified to the European Commission.
    Flavouring ban
  • Cigarettes and rolling tobacco containing characterising flavours such as fruit or vanilla will be banned from 2016.
  • A ban on menthol flavourings will apply from 2020.
    Electronic cigarettes
  • E-cigarettes will be classed as consumer products without the need for prior approval provided they meet a maximum nicotine concentration of 20 milligrams per millilitre (mg/ml). Products containing higher concentrations will be regulated as medicines.
  • Refill cartridges for reusable e-cigarettes must contain no more than 10 ml of nicotine-laced liquid, up to the maximum 20 mg/ml concentration. Non-refillable products can contain no more than 2 millilitre of liquid.
  • The Commission will publish a study on the potential health risks of refillable e-cigarettes by 2016. If three or more EU countries ban refillable e-cigarettes on health grounds, the Commission will be free to impose an EU-wide ban.
    Other restrictions
  • A ban on misleading terms on cigarettes and other smoking products, such as "organic" or "natural".
  • Governments can decide individually to ban the online sale of tobacco products across borders.

European Union diplomats approved new anti-tobacco legislation on Wednesday, including larger health warnings on cigarette packets and the bloc’s first ever rules on electronic cigarettes.

“Agreement on the tobacco directive is a big step towards a healthier and more prosperous society,” said Vytenis Povilas Andriukaitis, health minister of Lithuania, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency.

The deal was struck after governments and the European Parliament resolved a dispute over how tightly to regulate the booming market for e-cigarettes, which some analysts predict will eclipse the $700 billion-a-year regular cigarette market in 10 years.

Under the agreement, most e-cigarettes will be sold as consumer products rather than as more-tightly regulated medical devices, as governments had initially wanted. But while popular refillable e-cigarettes will be allowed, the European Commission could impose an EU-wide ban in future if three or more member states prohibit them on health grounds.

From 2016 when the rules changes will take effect, cigarettes, rolling tobacco and other products will have to carry graphic picture and text warnings covering 65 percent of the front and back of packets. The rules also include a ban on smoking tobacco products containing flavours such as fruit or vanilla.

Menthol cigarettes will be banned four years later, after some governments demanded a slower phase-out.

“I firmly believe that prominent visual warnings will serve as effective reminders of the severe health consequences of smoking and help people make well-informed choices,” European health commissioner Tonio Borg said in a statement. “And the prohibition of characterising flavours such as fruit or menthol, which appeal to young people, will make smoking initiation less appealing,” he said.

The deal is now expected to be formally approved by EU ministers and the full parliament before entering force next year.


Credit photo CC BY Flickr/wstryder

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