A crucial vote in Europe this month is expected to herald the biggest shakeup in the history of the tobacco market, with 10-packs, menthols, slims, and the most popular sizes of roll-your-own all on the chopping block.

In its draft form, the EU Tobacco Products Directive, currently being negotiated in the European Parliament and EU Council, would have sweeping consequences for suppliers and retailers. It is expected to come into force in 2016.

Tobacco Products Directive Proposals:

  • Graphic health warnings covering 75% of front and back of packs
  • Text health warnings to cover 50% of the side of packs
  • Minimum pack sizes of 20 cigarettes and 40g for RYO
  • Flip-top lids the only legal opening for cigarette packs
  • Minimum cigarette diameter of 7.5mm
  • Ban on characterising flavours including menthol

As it stands, the minimum pack size for cigarettes would be 20 and RYO 40g. And any cigarette with a diameter under 7.5mm would be banned - in effect outlawing all slim cigarettes - as would characterising flavours, including menthol.

The proposals, which also detail the EU’s plans to regulate the fast-growing electronic cigarettes market, and to extend warnings and limit packaging (see right) are due to be voted on by the parliament’s environmental ENVI committee on 10 and 11 July. The committee will decide on any changes to the draft.

While the industry is concerned about many of the proposals, the minimum RYO pack size of 40g would have a major impact in the UK as 80% is currently sold in either 12.5g or 25g packs.

Roll-your-own is also the only sector of the tobacco market that is currently in growth as a result of the downtrading trend, so this percentage is only likely to increase. Suppliers told The Grocer this would boost the counterfeit market. “The illicit trade would have a field day,” warned BAT head of corporate and regulatory affairs Ronald Ridderbeekx. “Forty-gram minimum pack sizes will push RYO out of the price range for many adult consumers, and they will turn to the black market to find product they can afford.”

Japan Tobacco International UK head of communications Jeremy Blackburn told The Grocer that the TPD “has not been properly thought through. It is fundamentally flawed, lacks hard evidence and will have serious consequences for consumers, and legitimate companies and their employees in the 28 member states”.

JTI is continuing to lobby regulators to make changes to the proposals. BAT, meanwhile, is calling on stakeholders to write to their MEPs to insist the provisions do not become law.

Another industry source said he expected the proposals to become a lot clearer after the ENVI committee vote. A full vote by the European Parliament is expected next year.