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New EC anti-smoking plans include ban on flavoured tobacco

Pictorial health warnings on cigarettes and regulation for e-cigarettes also proposed

Tobacco in the EU infographic

The European Commission (EC) is continuing its crackdown on tobacco smoking with plans to ban the sale of flavoured cigarettes, including menthol products.

The measure is one of several proposals considered for adoption in a revision of the Tobacco Products Directive, which also include plans to make pictorial health warnings take up 75 per cent of the surface of a packet of cigarettes and to introduce regulation for electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes).

The proposals have been two years in the making, and aim to curb what EC deputy director for general health and consumers Martin Seychell described as the “single most avoidable cause of death,” during a presentation at European Respiratory Society (ERS) Annual Congress in September.

One of the main priorities the revised Directive needs to address are tobacco initiatives that target young people, including cigarettes that are flavoured to hide the less appealing taste of tobacco, or e-cigarettes – the marketing of which is currently unregulated.

“The figures speak for themselves,” said the EC commissioner in charge of health and consumer policy, Tonio Borg, “Tobacco kills half of its users and is highly addictive.

“With 70 per cent of the smokers starting before the age of 18, the ambition of today's proposal is to make tobacco products and smoking less attractive and thus discourage tobacco initiation among young people."

Strengthened legislation could also have a positive economic effect, with the EC posting figures in an accompanying infographic stating that €25bn is spent each year on smoking related disease, while €8.3bn is lost due to smokers' absenteeism and early retirement.

In addition to the proposal for health warnings to take up 75 per cent of a cigarette packet surface, packaging must carry no promotional elements, while the current “misleading” ingredient information must be replaced by an information message on the side of the pack that tobacco smoke contains more than 70 substances causing cancer.

Nicotine containing products, such as electronic cigarettes, are allowed on the market, but must feature health warnings, unless the amount of nicotine they contain is above a certain threshold, in which instance they must be authorised as medicinal products, like nicotine replacement therapies.

Online sales will also be targeted, with legislation, such as age verification mechanism, to stop internet retailers selling products to children.

In addition, the ban on oral tobacco products (snus) will be maintained, except in Sweden. These products had earlier this year been at the heart of an anti-fraud case that led to resignation of Borg's predecessor as commissioner for health and consumer policy John Dalli.

20th December 2012

From: Regulatory, Healthcare

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