Just before the Christmas break, the European Commission has finally released the long-awaited revision of the tobacco products directive.
More than ten years have passed since the adoption of the current directive. During this time, there have been several market, scientific and international developments in the tobacco sector and the existing rules present a number of weaknesses, gaps and loopholes. Therefore, it has become necessary to update and complete the directive. A revision was repeatedly called for by the Council and the European Parliament.
While the overall objective of the revision is to improve the functioning of the internal market, it is expected that citizens in all Member States will benefit from improved public health. Therefore, the main legal basis is still the single market one (article 114 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, TFEU – harmonisation). However, a high level of health protection has been taken into account as from a broader perspection, the revision will contribute to the overall aim of the EU to promote the well-being of its people.
The revision focuses on five policy areas:
- Smokeless tobacco products and extension of the product scope (i.e. nicotine containing products and herbal products for smoking) → the ban on oral tobacco products (snus) is maintained, except for Sweden which has an exemption. All smokeless tobacco products must carry health warnings on the main surfaces of the package and products with characterising flavours cannot be sold. Novel tobacco products require prior notification. Nicotine containing products (e.g. electronic cigarettes) below a certain nicotine threshold are allowed on the market, but must feature health warnings; above this threshold such products are only allowed if authorised as medicinal products, like nicotine replacement therapies. Herbal cigarettes will have to carry health warnings
- Packaging & labelling → all cigarette and roll your own packages must contain a combined picture and text health warning covering 75% of the front and the back of the package and must carry no promotional elements. The current information on tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide, which is perceived as misleading, is replaced by an information message on the side of the pack that tobacco smoke contains more than 70 substances causing cancer. Member States remain free to introduce plain packaging in duly justified cases
- Ingredients/additives → an electronic reporting format for ingredients and emissions will be introduced. The proposal foresees a prohibition for cigarettes, roll your own tobacco and smokeless tobacco that have characterising flavours and a prohibition of products with increased toxicity and addictiveness
- Cross-border distance sales →a notification for internet retailers and age verification mechanism are foreseen to ensure that tobacco products are not sold to children and adolescents
- Traceability and security features → a tracking and tracing system and security features (e.g. holograms) are foreseen to ensure that only products complying with the directive are sold in the EU
Here, you can find the press release, the memo, the Commission’s presentation and the citizens’ summary of the European Commission.
The provisions are mostlz welcomed by EFA, although we would have preferred to have the plain packaging in the Commission’s proposal. As it is now, it is still possible for Member States to introduce national legislations requiring plain packaging, but this is left to the Member States and thez need to justify that these provisions do not hinder the EU single market.