The sale of cigarettes in packets of 10 is expected to be banned by 2016 after MEPs voted for tighter restrictions on tobacco use across Europe.
Electronic cigarette substitutes, which are increasingly popular as a less harmful alternative to smoking, will be subjected to the same strict limitations on advertising as ordinary tobacco products under the plan aimed at reducing smoking among women and young people.
Linda McAvan, the Labour MEP who drafted the legislation, said the new rules would protect “children from being targeted by tobacco companies” via the lure of attractive branding, small female friendly packs and flavoured cigarettes.
“Four thousand British children start smoking each week that s a staggering 200,000 new childhood smokers a year,” she said.
The new rules must be agreed by ministers and voted on again by the European Parliament before they become law throughout the European Union, but with most governments in favour this is not expected to pose an obstacle.
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The ban on packets of 10, supported by the Government, would hit two million British smokers because the small packs targeted by the EU because they are thought to be favoured by the young account for 38 per cent of cigarettes sold in the UK.
It came under immediate fire from the smokers group Forest, whose campaigns manager, Angela Harbutt, said that buying smaller packets was “an economic necessity” for some. “It is a mean spirited measure that punishes those on low incomes,” she said.
Apart from Britain Italy is the only other EU country that does not already require cigarettes to be sold in packets of 19 or 20.
The ban will also have an impact on British smokers of hand rolling tobacco. Many British roll up smokers buy their leaf tobacco in 12.5 gram packets which will be banned by the EU, with a new minimum sales weight of 20g.
MEPs also voted to ban menthol cigarettes by 2022, a decision that delayed by five years a European Commission proposal that would have prohibited mint, fruit or sweet flavoured tobacco by the end of 2016.
The menthol ban will eventually wipe out annual British cigarette sales worth up to f650 million, imposing losses of over f6 billion a year on the tobacco industry, which has warned that the measure will lead to increased smuggling.
Drago Azinovic, the EU region head of Philip Morris International, warned “MEPs have voted to ban an entire segment of the legal market, despite the inevitable increase in illegal trade that this will fuel.”
Under the new EU rules, graphic health warnings, including colour photographs of tumours, must cover 65 per cent of tobacco packaging relegating the names of famous brands such as Benson and Hedges, Marlboro or Gauloises to the bottom edge of cigarette packets.
As well as taking a significant towards plain packaging, the use of words such as “light”, “mild” and “low tar” to describe cigarettes and other tobacco products will be prohibited completely.
In a setback for public health campaigners, the commission, most national governments, including Britain and the pharmaceutical industry, most MEPs rejected a ban on longer, narrower “slim” cigarettes, or for the sale of electronic cigarettes to be restricted by classing them as medicines.
“It is bitterly disappointing that MEPs chose to protect the interests of the tobacco lobby today, rather than protect the health of our young people,” said Keith Taylor, a Green MEP.
As cigarette smoking has been increasingly stigmatised and prohibited, the sale of e cigarettes has risen dramatically from f2.5 million in 2011 to f23.9m last year.
E cigarettes consist of a battery, a cartridge containing nicotine, a solution of propylene glycol or glycerine mixed with water, and an atomiser to turn the solution into a vapour.
Their growing popularity led the commission to propose classing them as a medicine alongside nicotine patches and other “smoking cessation” products.
Current plans by Britain s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to class e cigarettes as medicinal products could now be overturned by the EU decision.
A Department of Health spokesman said “We are disappointed with the decision to reject the proposal to regulate nicotine containing products, including e cigarettes, as medicines,” said a department of health spokesman.
“We believe these products need to be regulated as medicines and will continue to make this point during further negotiations.”
The european commission has misinterpreted my scientific research on nicotine in e-cigarettes
The European Commission has misinterpreted my scientific research on nicotine in e cigarettes
By Dr Farsalinos
As everyone knows, the latest TPD proposal dictates a 20mg/ml upper limit for nicotine content in e cigarette liquids. In their justification document, the European Commission cites 2 of my published studies to support that the scientific basis of their decision is that nicotine delivery from a 20mg/ml nicotine containing liquid is equivalent to one tobacco cigarette and that this level is sufficient for smokers to completely substitute smoking.
Since it is more than evident that my research has been misinterpreted, leading to bad decisions, I decided to send a letter to the Health Commissioner and MEPs and release this letter here.
Here is the letter
SANCO recently decided that 20mg/ml nicotine levels should be the highest level present in the liquids of e cigarettes. To justify this decision, they have released a document (reference 1) where they have cited two medical studies performed by me as principle researcher (references 2 and 3). The Commission suggests that my research shows that 20mg/mlnicotine limit is equivalent to the nicotine delivered through the use of tobacco cigarettes and is sufficient for most smokers to completely substitute smoking.
Since my studies are the only scientific evidence quoted by SANCO, it is my duty to inform you that the interpretation of my research is completely wrong.
My research (cited by SANCO) specifically examined nicotine consumption and made absolutely clear that the determination of the upper limits needs to be determined based on nicotine absorption and delivery to the bloodstream (reference 2). My studies on nicotine absorption pharmacokinetics have shown that liquids with nicotine content similar to the upper limit decided by SANCO provides typically less than one third of the nicotine delivered by one tobacco cigarette (references 4 and 5). We have calculated that a 50mg/ml nicotine containing liquid is marginally equivalent to smoking one tobacco cigarette in terms of nicotine delivery to the bloodstream. In my second study cited by SANCO, I have clearly shown that 23% of smokers had to use higher than 20mg/ml nicotine containing liquids in order to completely substitute smoking (reference 3, Figure 1). None can support that 23% of users is a small proportion however, this has been ignored by SANCO. In fact, this study provides further support that 20mg/ml nicotine content in liquids is insufficient for smokers.
I have always been willing to provide consultation to the regulatory authorities. Regulatory organizations such as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) were more than willing to meet and consult with me on the science behind e cigarettes and are open for any future meeting to present more research. It is highly important that regulators within the EU also realize the value of proper consultation for an issue which is of outmost importance for public health.
Regulatory decisions based on misinterpreting science are inevitably wrong. The Commission has no scientific justification for its proposed 20mg/ml nicotine limit.
1. European Commission. Revision of the Tobacco Products Directive. Factsheets for information on specific policy areas E cigarettes. Available at
2. Farsalinos K. et al. Evaluation of electronic cigarette use (vaping) topography and estimation of liquid consumption implications for research protocol standards definition and for public health authorities’ regulation. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 2013.
3. Farsalinos K. et al. Evaluating nicotine levels selection and patterns of electronic cigarette use in a group of “vapers” who had achieved complete substitution of smoking. Substance Abuse, 2013.
4. Farsalinos K. et al. Nicotine absorption from electronic cigarette use comparison between first and new generation devices. (Submitted for publication Presented to the FDA, December 19, 2013).
5. Farsalinos K. et al. Nicotine absorption from electronic cigarette use comparison between na ve and experienced users. (Presented to the FDA, December 19, 2013).