December 19, 2012
BRUSSELS (Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa)) -- Cigarettes and tobacco products will carry graphic pictures and bigger health warnings, while flavoured products such as menthol cigarettes will be banned, according to a proposals from the European Commission Wednesday.
"Tobacco kills half of its users and is highly addictive," said EU Health Commissioner Tonio Borg, pointing out that 70 per cent of smokers started before the age of 18.
"The ambition of today's proposal is to make tobacco products and smoking less attractive and thus discourage tobacco initiation among young people."
Graphic pictures and warnings must cover three quarters of the front and back of cigarette and tobacco packages, according to the proposal.
A new warning will appear on the side of packs that tobacco smoke contains more than 70 substances causing cancer. Overall, just 30 per cent of packaging will be left free for branding.
The proposal, which must be approved by the European Parliament and member states, would also outlaw the use of "characterising flavours" in cigarettes and tobacco, such as menthol or fruit flavourings.
"Consumers must not be cheated: tobacco products should look and taste like tobacco products," Borg said. "This proposal ensures that attractive packaging and flavourings are not used as a marketing strategy."
It will also maintain a ban on oral tobacco products, notably the Swedish product snus, except in Sweden which negotiated an exemption when it joined the EU. Other smokeless tobacco products must carry health warnings.
At the same time, the nicotine content of products such as electronic cigarettes must fall below a certain threshold, or else be registered as medicinal products.
The directive also aims to introduce new safeguards against forgery and mechanisms to ensure tobacco products are not sold to children and adolescents online.
Products such as cigars, pipe tobacco and cigarillos face less stringent regulation, as they are rarely the products that introduce people to smoking, according to the commission.
The commission's tobacco directive became embroiled in controversy as Borg's predecessor, John Dalli, was forced to resign in October after being investigated for allegedly improper contacts with the tobacco industry.
In particular, he was alleged to have held undeclared meetings with representatives of the Swedish snus industry.
Copyright 2012 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH