MEPs tighten anti-tobacco laws aimed at young smokers

 

Linda McAvan MEP welcomed the crackdown on cigarette flavourings

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Euro MPs have voted to tighten tobacco regulations aimed at putting young people off smoking, but some measures do not go as far as originally planned.

They rejected a European Commission proposal to treat electronic cigarettes as medicinal products - a move that would have restricted sales.

They backed a ban on cigarette flavourings - but with a five-year delay in the case of menthol.

Slim cigarettes will not be banned. EU ministers must now consider the plans.

Among other measures, MEPs voted on Tuesday to put health warnings on 65% of each cigarette pack, as opposed to the proposed 75%.

Linda McAvan, the Labour MEP steering the legislation, said 65% was still "a long way towards plain packaging".

The current requirement for health warnings is for 30% minimum coverage on one side and 40% on the other.

Analysis

MEPs spent hours debating these proposals. One said: "Smoking kills, it's that simple", arguing for the tougher regulations. But some questioned whether the proposals would significantly reduce smoking rates. Others were concerned about job losses.

In the end this was a mixed result for health campaigners. No ban on slim cigarettes, a delayed ban for menthol, health warnings to cover 65% of the packet - as opposed to the 75% proposed.

On e-cigarettes, proposals to regulate them as medicines EU-wide were rejected. That might pose complications for the UK Government; the regulator there has already backed the tougher regulations. Before the vote, EU officials had complained loudly about tobacco lobbyists trying to get MEPs to water down the plans and, from today's evidence, it appears they were successful.

Still, this isn't the end game for the legislation. There will now be negotiations between the European Parliament and the EU member states to decide on the final laws.

Packs of 10 cigarettes, considered popular among younger smokers, will also be banned.

Fourteen EU states already have 20 as the minimum, four stipulate a minimum of 19, and in the UK and Italy the minimum is 10.

Smaller than normal packs of roll-your-own tobacco will still be allowed under the new rules.

It was the European Parliament's first reading of a draft tobacco directive which could become law in 2014. It would then take two more years to become law in each of the 28 EU member states.

There has been intense lobbying of MEPs by the tobacco industry and health campaigners.

The Commission says almost 700,000 Europeans die from smoking-related illnesses each year - equal to the population of Frankfurt or Palermo. The costs for healthcare in the EU are estimated to be at least 25.3bn euros (£20.6bn; $33.4bn) annually.

Mixed reactions

Conservative and Liberal MEPs welcomed the amendments made to the original proposal from Labour's Linda McAvan.

Speaking to the BBC, Ms McAvan said she was disappointed that slim cigarettes were not banned.

But cigarette packaging made to look like lipstick or perfume containers - attractive to girls - will disappear, she noted.

There will now be further negotiations with the Council - the grouping of relevant EU ministers. MEPs may manage to avoid a second vote and fast-track the legislation so that it is adopted before the May 2014 European elections.

The proposals also include a ban on words like "light", "mild" and "low tar", deemed to be misleading, and a ban on oral tobacco - called snus - although Sweden would retain its exemption.

EU Health Commissioner Tonio Borg called the vote "positive". "I am confident that the revised Directive on Tobacco Products can still be adopted within the mandate of the current Parliament," he said.

But Carl Schlyter MEP, health spokesman for the Greens, called it "a shameful day for the European Parliament, as a centre-right majority, led by the EPP group, has done the bidding of the tobacco industry and voted for weaker rules".

BBC News asked a doctor and the owner of an e-cigarette shop in Paris for their views on the new law

Angela Harbutt of the pro-tobacco organisation Forest criticised the legislation, saying "prohibition doesn't work and products that are banned will almost certainly be available on the unregulated black market.

"Law-abiding consumers will be at a serious disadvantage and it won't help children because criminal gangs don't care who they sell to," she said.

E-cigarette controversy

The UK has already said e-cigarettes will be licensed as medicine from 2016.

Sales of the tobacco-free devices have boomed worldwide since bans on smoking in public places were introduced.

But campaigners say their growing popularity is dangerous.

They argue that e-cigarettes undermine years of anti-smoking efforts and could be especially damaging to children and non-smokers.

The devices are designed to replicate smoking behaviour without the use of tobacco. They turn nicotine and other chemicals into a vapour that is inhaled.

Manufacturers of e-cigarettes say the products have the potential to save millions of lives.

Anti-smoking campaigners say young people especially are being tricked into taking up smoking.

Prof Martin McKee of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine says tobacco firms have simply extended their advertising techniques to e-cigarettes.

Commissioner Borg, presenting the proposals, said tobacco products "should look and taste like tobacco products".

In 2009‐10, sales of tobacco products generated nearly £9bn ($14.6bn; 11bn euros) in taxes for the UK government, about 2% of all receipts from taxation, a government report said.

 

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  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 26.

    I wonder if these "Campaigners" are sponsored by the tobacco industry not wanting to lose their monopoly.

  • rate this
    +19

    Comment number 25.

    I smoked for over 30 years and gave up after using an e-cig for about 2 months, then went cold turkey. Really easy, but that is probably what they are worried about!

  • rate this
    +33

    Comment number 24.

    How are nicotine only (or even 'nicotine free') e-cigarettes damaging anything but the nazi non-smokers ego busy shoving 'health' down everyone else's throat? Maybe 'idiots' is inappropriate but that's the first word that comes to mind.
    I picked up a 0mg-nicotine e-cig and literally quit smoking overnight. I'm pretty sure I'm not the one, how does that *undermine* anti-smoking efforts?

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 23.

    I don't understand this.....Why new restrictions and conditions related to the smoking and still leaving the tobbaco legal product and collecting milions in taxes from cigarets.....I am no smoker but seems to me that it is ok to collect taxes from tobaco products and then talking about health related problems the smoking can cause...

  • rate this
    +68

    Comment number 22.

    I sense the anti-smoking lobby are running out of steam - or vapour in this case. The link between e-cigs and children is tenuous at best. I know of no one who has taken up smoking based on e-cigs nor is it likely. When you let health zealots run riot, this is what happens.

  • rate this
    +25

    Comment number 21.

    If lots of people stopped smoking, how would the EU make up the difference in tax revenues? Also. most smokers have paid considerably more tax than any health costs they might incur I'm sure a lot more damage is being caused from vehicle exhaust fumes.!

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 20.

    @8 'I think they imagine that kiddies will like them better'


    Really? News to me. I wonder if the powers that be know what they're on about at times.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 19.

    If eCigs are to be treated at medicine, can they be purchased with a NHS pre-payment card, and do the unemployed etc get them for free; like all other medicines?

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 18.

    So people stop smoking, start living longer, claim more pension, pay less tax. How are we going to pay for the healthcare when everyone gets old and unwell through natural illness? Is it going to be made illegal in the future so the only people profiting are criminals?

  • rate this
    +71

    Comment number 17.

    We ecig users have battled & fought for our right to stay off of tobacco using our devices. As adults we enjoy flavours (I exclusively use sweet ones at 35yrs old) & it is right that we can access ecigs as freely as we can tobacco. We have been largely ignored & sometimes slandered so today was a huge win for us. Ecigs ARE regulated despite what the public are being told & do NOT harm others.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 16.

    So if e-cigs are to be licensed as a medicine, like an asthma inhaler, does that mean I will have the need and right to use it anywhere - else I am being denied my essential medication?

    And if nicotine conaining e-cigs are licensed as a medicine, should'nt nicotine containing tobacco cigarettes also be treated the same way?

  • rate this
    +43

    Comment number 15.

    I am a non-smoker, and have no particular issues with the various measures to regulate and ban smoking in public places etc, but I need a bit more convincing that e-cigs are a public health risk. At the very least, there's no evidence right now they pose any of the same risks that tobacco products do.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 14.

    Aren't we the Eu and the rest the Eu+.

  • rate this
    -8

    Comment number 13.

    I'm pleased that the MEP's are finally tightening tobacco regulation. We have known for many years how dangerous smoking is and children are taught about these dangers from a young age, yet still children continue to start smoking and then smoke throughout their lives. E-Cigarettes, I think, should be used by people trying to stop smoking and NEVER be sold to children - it's just ridiculous.

  • rate this
    +29

    Comment number 12.

    Yay, ecigarettes will not be regulated as medicines by the EU. Finally some common sense prevails! Now time for the MHRA to change their stance too.

    The war against ecigs isn't over, but a major battle has been won by those supporting ecigs.

  • Comment number 11.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +15

    Comment number 10.

    Yawn.
    They'd have been better off donating the millions of Euros wasted on another utterly pointless Bureaucratic conference to Cancer research.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 9.

    It's either illegal or it isn't. Enough of this nonsense already.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 8.

    @6 I think they imagine that kiddies will like them better.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 7.

    #5 In which case you think wrong. You cannot smoke in public places and having nearly been run over by someone trying to light a cig while driving at the weekend (which apparently required so much brain power he couldn't process a red light) I'd rather it was banned while driving too. The fact phones and eating an apple are suggests the "EU-SSR" rather favours the smoker comparatively speaking

 

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