EU tightens anti-tobacco laws

MEPs vote to implement stricter tobacco product regulations

The European Parliament debated revisions to the Tobacco Products Directive yesterday, revisiting legislation that was originally adopted over ten years ago. 


Among the changes on the table, a proposal to treat electronic cigarettes as medicinal products – which would would result in restricted sales – was rejected. A ban on slim cigarettes was also rejected, though packs of ten cigarettes will be prohibited. A ban on cigarette flavourings was supported, but there will be up to an eight-year delay in implementation when it comes to menthol flavouring. Also included was a suggestion that 75 percent of front and back packaging be covered with warnings on the dangers of tobacco consumption. The centre-right EPP group wanted this percentage reduced to 50 percent. A compromise of 65 percent was eventually reached.   


Revision to the directive would become law in 2014, following negotiations with the Council of Ministers.


Changes coming to Denmark
The effects of the revision will eventually reach Denmark and Niels Them Kjær, the project manager for Kræftens Bekæmpelse, the national cancer society, believes the developments should be viewed as positive.


"I am happy that the process is carrying on. The tobacco industry attempted to drag it out and push the decision until after the next election," Kjær told DR Nyheder. "So I think, all things considered, it is a step in the right direction."


Kjær said that even though the changes will take a while to have an effect, "we have known that smoking can cause cancer for over 50 years, and it is still permitted, so we have learned to be patient."


READ MORE: Copenhagen aims to be smoke-free by 2025


Some argue that stricter regulations or prohibition would lead to negative consequences, as was the case with snus (a type of chewing tobacco) earlier this year, when a majority in parliament voted down the government's bill to ban the oral tobacco product in Denmark.


“Venstre could not support such a ban, which goes too far,” party spokesperson Sophie Løhde told Information newspaper last year in response to the government's bill proposal. “It will lead to a black market or people simply buying snus abroad.”


READ MORE: Denmark to enforce smokeless tobacco ban


The current EU proposal would also include a ban on snus, though Sweden would maintain its exemption. 


Snus continues to maintain its controversial legal standing due to questions surrounding whether or not sales of the product are in accordance with the Tobacco Products Directive. However, despite the government's efforts to pass legislation that would ban its sale in Denmark, loose snus remains legal.


Danish MEP Bendt Bendtsen (Konservative) finds the government's initiatives counterproductive. 


"I think it is outrageous that snus will be banned in Denmark," Bendtsen told The Copenhagen Post. 


"From a health perspective it makes no sense at all. We have seen that snus can actually encourage people to stop smoking!," Bendtsen continued. "The health records of countries with a high consumption of snus ought to be encouraging for health campaigners. Instead the health lobby has successfully been able to force the opinions of politicians,. Generally, I feel that the best ways of combating smoking is through taxes – not by banning products."


The revisions to the directive focus on several main issues:


– how to regulate products which do not contain tobacco, but which are closely linked to smoking or tobacco consumption, for example electronic and herbal cigarettes

– labelling and packaging of tobacco products

– additives, such as flavourings, used in tobacco products

– internet sales of tobacco products

– tracking and tracing of these products.


You can read more about the revision of the Tobacco Products Directive here.