Tobacco Products Regulation

This section contains information about tobacco product regulation.  For information about non-tobacco nicotine containing products see harm reduction page.

Tobacco is a uniquely dangerous consumer product: half of all life-long smokers die prematurely from smoking-related diseases. Although the scale of harm varies from one product to another, there is no safe level of use.

In the UK tobacco products are regulated through a combination of UK and EU law. As a Party to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the UK is also bound by the measures included in the FCTC.

The 2001 EU Tobacco Products Directive imposed maximum yields for cigarette emissions and disclosure of ingredients. The revised European Tobacco Products Directive which took effect from 20th May 2016 imposes further controls on tobacco products. These include: a ban on characterising flavours; a ban on all promotional and misleading elements on tobacco products; a requirement of manufacturers to notify authorities of novel tobacco products before placing them on the market; and new labelling and reporting requirements.

In addition, in the UK, a law requiring tobacco products to be sold in standardised packaging (that is with the promotional branding elements removed) entered into force on 20th May 2016. France and Ireland have passed similar laws and Australia was the first country in the world to introduce this measure in December 2012.

For further information on the laws relating to tobacco see the ASH law guide.

Articles 9 and 10 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control require nations that have ratified the treaty to introduce monitoring and testing of the constituents and emissions of tobacco products, and to force manufacturers to disclose product ingredients. Partial Guidelines on implementing Articles 9 and 10 have been adopted and further work on the guidelines is ongoing.

A 2007 review of the health effects of smokeless tobacco products by the EU Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR) concluded that smokeless tobacco products are addictive, contain various levels of toxic substances and are hazardous to health.

Since November 2011, all cigarettes manufactured for consumption in the European Union are required to conform with an EU standard  to reduce the risk of fires.

Since the 1950s, the tobacco industry has tried but failed to produce and market less hazardous cigarettes. There is no such thing as a safe cigarette – a fact now acknowledged by tobacco companies. Undeterred, the industry has continued to research and develop reduced risk tobacco products, particularly in the USA. Such products are now regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration. The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, 2009 authorises the FDA to regulate tobacco and also to investigate and report on the health effects of new and existing tobacco products. Key provisions of the Act include prohibition of reduced harm claims including “light” “low” or “mild” without an FDA order to allow marketing; a requirement for larger health warnings; and a ban on flavourings except for menthol.

DH consultation on implementation of the revised Tobacco Products Directive (2014/40/EU).

ASH response to a Department of Health consultation on the implementation of the revised Tobacco Products Directive (2014/40/EU).

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ASH submission to DCLG on tobacco litter

ASH submission to the Department of Communities and Local Government on tobacco litter.

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ASH response to HMRC consultation on the control of raw tobacco

ASH response to a HM Revenue & Customs consultation on the control of raw tobacco.

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