As readers most probably remember, the European Parliament in Strasbourg was scheduled to vote on the Tobacco Directive on 8th of October this year. The vote was initially planned much sooner but was postponed on numerous occasions due to various reasons. This time, however, was the definite and on 8th of October the European Parliament passed the Tobacco Directive banning the use of flavour additives in tobacco products and aimed to make tobacco products less attractive. Still, the new Directive will significantly ease the control of the tobacco industry as compared to previously proposed measures.
The mandate was approved by 560 votes to 92, with 32 abstentions. Following a long and stormy round of debate, which according to some of the parliamentarians was almost equal to the budget discussion, the following compromise was reached:
- introduction of plain tobacco product packaging discarded;
- text and pictorial health warnings on tobacco products covering 65% of the surface;
- flavoured (mint, chocolate, fruit, etc.) cigarettes to be banned within 5 years;
- electronic cigarettes to be considered as tobacco products;
- the ban of slim cigarettes discarded;
- a ban on the sale of tobacco packages containing less than 20 cigarettes proposed.
The Parliament voted in favour that e-cigarettes should contain no more than 30 mg/ml of nicotine, should carry health warnings and should not be sold to persons under 18 years of age. Also, e-cigarette advertising should be subject to the same advertising restrictions as tobacco products. However, the Parliament rejected a proposal to ban slim cigarettes and to treat e-cigarettes as medicinal products unless the product contains an indication of its medicinal features. Although the use of additives essential to produce tobacco, such as sugar, was not banned, the MEPs moved to take flavoured tobacco products, including mint, fruit, chocolate, or other taste cigarettes, off the market as these additives make tobacco more attractive. Any use of flavour additives would require authorisation from the European Commission. Current regulation requires that health warnings cover at least 30% of the front package area and 40% of the back surface. Instead of proposed 75% of the front and back of packs, health warnings will occupy 65% of the package surface. These warnings will be placed on the top edge of the package, while the brand will appear at the bottom part of the package.
The approval of the Tobacco Directive in the European Parliament marks only the first step towards its actual implementation. Further talks concerning the Directive now move to the Council (with the participation of the European Parliament and the European Commission). After the consultation by the Council, the Directive will be pending another vote in the European Parliament. The vote is expected to take place next year and is likely that the final text of the Directive might still be subject to amendments.