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Eu tobacco law agreed

Fda launches ad campaign telling kids that ‘cigarettes are bullies’

A committee of member state representatives gave their approval this morning to a revision of European Union tobacco law that will, controversially, tightly regulate the content and marketing of electronic cigarettes.

The e cigarette issue had threatened to derail talks between the European Parliament and member states. MEPs insisted that the devices should be regulated for general sale. National governments, concerned about the unknown long term health effects, wanted them to be regulated as medicines. Member states also wanted to ban refillable cartridges over concerns about safety and nicotine content.

But MEPs, under intense pressure from e cigarette manufacturers and users who said such restrictions would kill off a valuable tool to quit smoking, refused to allow such a ban.

A compromise was agreed Monday night (16 December), but it had to be approved by EU countries today because it went beyond the mandate given to the Lithuanian government, which is conducting negotiations on behalf of member states.

Under the deal, e cigarettes will be regulated for general sale at EU level, but member states would be allowed to regulate them as medicines if they so choose. Refillable cartridges will not be banned. However member states can ban specific types of cartridges, if the ban can be justified by safety concerns. If three member states adopt a ban on a specific cartridge, the European Commission can unilaterally impose an EU level ban, without approval by Parliament or member states. Although the deal on Monday would have capped cartridge size at 1ml, this was raised today to 2ml on the advice of the Commission.

E cigarettes will be limited to a maximum permitted nicotine concentration level of 20mg/ml, equivalent to roughly one pack of regular cigarettes.

Reaction from e cigarette companies and users was mixed. Some fear that provision allowing national bans on specific refillable cartridges will eventually mean an effective EU ban on all refillables, if member states begin banning most types of cartridges. The Parliament would be powerless to stop such an effective ban. They are also concerned about a provision requiring the issue to be revisited in 2016.

Fraser Cropper, chief executive of e cigarette manufacturer Totally Wicked, said that while the final deal is a significant improvement from the original Commission proposal thanks to the work of MEPs, it leaves great uncertainty for the future. He said clarity needs to be brought to the proposal

Traditional tobacco

Though the e cigarette issue became the most contested part of the legislation in its final weeks, the revision of the EU’s Tobacco Products Directive will mean big changes for traditional cigarettes as well.

All characterising flavours will be banned, though the menthol flavour will be given a four year derogation. Menthol cigarettes will be banned in 2020. Manufacturers and importers must submit reports on the use of these additives within 18 months.

Graphic pictorial health warnings will now be required. They must cover 65% of both the front and back of cigarette packs. In order to address the concerns raised by manufacturers about increased ease of counterfeiting using the labels, the law will set up an EU wide tracking and tracing system to combat illicit trade of tobacco products.

Member states may ban cross border distance sales of tobacco products, for example through online purchasing. Snus, the oral tobacco which was at the heart of a scandal last year which resulted in the resignation of former health commissioner John Dalli, will see no change in its legal status. It is banned in the EU except for Sweden.

The Commission proposal to ban slim cigarettes was rejected. But perfumed ‘lipstick’ cigarettes will be banned.

Vytenis Povilas Andriukaitis, the Lithuanian health minister, said today that the agreement is just a first, but crucial step in protecting the public health and in harmonising the market of tobacco products at the Union level.

Tonio Borg, the current European commissioner for health who replaced Dalli after he resigned, said that he believes that prominent visual warnings will serve as effective reminders of the severe health consequences of smoking and help people make well informed choices.

The prohibition of characterising flavours such as fruit or menthol, which appeal to young people, will make smoking initiation less appealing, he added.

Health campaigners also welcomed today’s result. We have good reasons to celebrate , said Florence Berteletti, director of the Smoke Free Partnership As a result of the TPD’s negotiations, the EU will force tobacco companies to make tobacco products less attractive to young people this is exactly what tobacco companies feared the most and why they deployed such an army against the Tobacco Products Directive over the past 6 years. Yet, they lost.

Tobacco companies maintained their opposition to the changes. The TPD has been negotiated hastily, pushed by political agendas, with little consideration given to the effectiveness of the numerous measures and the costs entailed for EU member states and businesses, said Ben Townsend, head of EU affairs for tobacco company JTI.

The deal must still be rubber stamped by health ministers and the full Parliament. This final approval is expected in March.