EU Tobacco Products Directive: agreement reached

Wednesday 18 December 2013

The text of a new EU law to further restrict the sale and promotion of tobacco has been agreed today. Following weeks of negotiations between the EU Commission, Parliament and Council of Ministers the final ‘trilogue’ meeting resulted in agreement across a range of new measures. Subject to a final vote in Parliament, the measures include:

• Combined picture and text health warnings covering 65% at the top of the front and back of the package (picture warnings are only voluntary under the current directive);
• A de facto ban on perfume/lipstick-shaped and other innovative-shaped packaging (by specifying a minimum dimension for the health warnings);
• A ban on packs of cigarettes of less than 20;
• A ban on characterising flavours but with a four year additional transition period for menthol;
• Tracking and tracing for cigarettes (important for controlling the illicit trade);
• Enabling Member States to introduce stricter measures on public health grounds. This could allow them to introduce standardised packaging, for example; [1]
• Electronic-cigarettes up to 20mg/ml strength will be regulated under the Tobacco Products Directive except where producers opt in to medicines regulation.

The compromise position still has to be formally adopted by the European Parliament and the Council. Once the Directive is adopted, member states will have two years to transpose the new rules into international law.

Reacting to the new agreement, Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of health charity ASH said:

“This is a tremendously important day for public health. ASH congratulates all those who have worked so hard to ensure the Directive stayed on track to get the best possible health outcomes. This is a triumph of public health over the vested interests of the tobacco industry which tried but failed to derail the Directive.”

Notes and Links:

[1] The UK Government has now tabled an amendment to the Children and Families Bill to allow primary legislation for the implementation of standard tobacco packaging.