Thursday, 27 February 2014

Tobacco Products Directive - not just a smoke screen

I know everyone is fixated now on the success of the proposal for the Common European Sales Law in the European Parliament's first vote, but it should not escape our attention that yesterday the European Parliament also voted on the Tobacco Products Directive (finally!). While the proposal for the CESL regulation will now have to be negotiated through the Council, the Tobacco Products Directive has been adopted yesterday after a long and controversial (see our previous posts, e.g. On lobbying in Brussels) legislative process and we expect the new Directive to enter into force in May 2014 (with the transposition period for the Member States of 2 years and some longer phase-out periods provided for). As we have previously written (One last menthol cigarette?) the new law focuses on improving awareness among smokers of the detriments it brings to their health, decreasing its attractiveness. 

The future packaging of cigarettes will need to be covered with more of both textual and visual health warnings (65% on top and back thereof - placed on the top edge, and 50% on the sides) (New rules for tobacco products), which should increase visibility of this information. With that in mind it has also been determined that a cigarette pack would need to have a cuboid shape and contain minimum 20 cigarettes - the bigger the package, the bigger the warning on it. This means that, e.g., the slim cigarette packs that often appeal to women will be prohibited. Tobacco producers will be prohibited from encouraging their clients to use cigarettes by placing misleading elements on the packs - e.g. references to lifestyle benefits, taste, absence of additives, special offers etc. Similar rules will apply to roll-your-own tobacco products. Some more discretion was given to the Member States as to how to regulate smokeless products, pipe tobacco and cigars. Member States are also allowed to strengthen the protection of the citizens by e.g. allowing plain packaging if it would be justified by public health grounds and would not create hidden barriers to cross-border trade. Quite a revolution for some of the smokers out there would be that menthol cigarettes would be banned after a phase-out period of four years. In general, any flavourings that would disguise the taste of tobacco will be prohibited, however, the additives necessary for the manufacture of tobacco products remain valid to be used. 

The new Directive will also start regulating e-cigarettes which is a new product that slowly starts gaining in popularity on the market. The Directive sets a maximum nicotine concentration level for e-cigarettes and a maximum volume for cartridges (which should be child-proof) as well as also regulates the duties to inform consumers by placing health warnings on the packs together with instructions for use etc.

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