Eu lawmakers vote to ban menthol, flavoured cigarettes and introduce larger warnings

July 10, 2013

Lawmakers at the European Parliament on Wednesday approved a ban on menthol and other flavored cigarettes as part of broad legislation that will sharply restrict how tobacco products can be sold across the 28 nation European Union.

Lawmakers at the European Parliament on Wednesday approved a ban on menthol and other flavored cigarettes as part of broad legislation that will sharply restrict how tobacco products can be sold across the 28 nation European Union.

The legislation would also require most «electronic» cigarettes battery powered devices that turn a liquid nicotine mixture into an inhalable mist to be regulated like medicines. That could subject the increasingly popular devices, used primarily by smokers to help quit, to extensive safety testing in some EU countries where they are now unregulated.

The rules add another barrier to the sales efforts of tobacco giants such as British American Tobacco and Imperial Tobacco Group. Governments around the world are cracking down on tobacco products. Australia has arguably been most aggressive, with rules that went into effect this year banning all logos or brand imagery on cigarette boxes, replacing them with gruesome images of tobacco related diseases.

Wednesday’s vote, in a key committee of the parliament, means the ban on flavored cigarettes is likely to become law, since EU national governments also banned menthols as part of their version of the legislation last month. The entire parliament must now vote on the law, though the result will be similar, people following the legislation said.

The legislation targeted flavored cigarettes because experts believe they hold a special appeal for children.

But there are other differences between the parliament and the national governments that must be resolved before the new rules can become law and enter into force over the next three years.

Among them is a ban on «slim» cigarettes that was backed by the parliament but not by the national governments, which chose instead to ban slim cigarette packaging designed by cigarette makers to look like lipstick or perfume in an effort to appeal to younger women.

Also, the parliament’s version of the legislation would require that 75% of the surface area of cigarette packaging contain pictorial health warnings. The version backed by national governments calls for just 65% of cigarette packaging to contain the warnings.

Menthols account for about 5% of the EU cigarette market and slims about 6%, according to the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm.

«We still believe that elements of the proposal, such as enlarged health warnings and a ban on various products consumed by many millions of adults, remain disproportionate are unlikely to succeed in addressing public health objectives and potentially breach European Union Law,» a British American Tobacco spokesman said.

Packaging restrictions aren’t the most effective measures to cut smoking, said Rey Wium, a tobacco industry analyst at Renaissance Capital in London. Indoor smoking bans have a bigger impact, he said.

«The best way of curbing smoking is through excise tax increases,» Mr. Wium said. «The biggest risk to the companies is abnormal, or ‘shock’ excise tax increases, substantially above inflation.»

«The tobacco industry has been operating in a dark environment for quite some time,» he added. «I don’t think this European directive will make life extraordinarily different for them.»

Source The Wall Street Journal (July 10, 2013)

A real drag as european parliament threatens to take electronic cigarettes off the shelves : european conservatives and reformists group

Electronic cigarettes which are being increasingly used as a smoking ‘quit aid’ risk being taken off the market by a short sighted vote in the European Parliament that will classify them as a medicinal product, Conservative MEP Martin Callanan has warned.

Today’s vote in the parliament’s environment and public health committee was intended to primarily look at ways of making tobacco smoking less attractive to young people, through mandatory warnings, minimum pack sizes, and rules on flavourings. However, the revision of the ‘Tobacco Products Directive’ would classify most electronic cigarettes as a medicinal product, despite the fact that in the UK alone 25 percent of all quit attempts were made using e cigarettes, making them the most popular quit aid.

1.3 million people in the UK alone now use electronic cigarettes (compared to nine million tobacco smokers). Before the vote in the parliament today, users of e cigarettes (known as vapers) protested, arguing that through e cigarettes they were able to kick the tobacco habit.

Today’s vote classifying them as medical devices will mean they must undergo a costly and protracted authorisation processes. As many of the producers of e cigarettes are small start up businesses, such a process could push many out of business and reduce choice for e cigarette users.

Mr Callanan, who was the European Conservatives and Reformists Group lead member on the directive, proposed an amendment that would see e cigarettes authorised in a similar way to other nicotine products. Speaking after today’s vote, he said

«It is preposterous to classify e cigarettes as medical devices.

«Thousands of people have given up smoking thanks to e cigarettes. For the EU to over regulate them is completely counter productive and hypocritical.

«Electronic cigarette production has become lucrative for many small businesses and many jobs now depend on e cigarette production. By making the authorisation procedure for e cigarettes so difficult, many of these small businesses will pack up shop.

«This vote is not the end of this process and we will be working with vapers to make other MEPs see sense and support e cigarette producers and users.

«The world has gone mad when tobacco is less regulated than products designed to end tobacco use.»