A key vote on the controversial EU Tobacco Products Directive has been delayed - raising doubts the Bill will be passed in the current session of the European Parliament.
The parliamentary vote had been set for next week but has now been pushed back until 8 October after leading groups of MEPs called for more time to review a series of new amendments added during the plenary stage this week.
This week’s changes included a proposal to reduce the planned coverage of pictorial health warnings from 75% of the front and back of packs to 50%, and the deletion of a proposal to regulate e-cigarettes as medicines.
The delay, called for by the EPP group, the largest voting group in the parliament and made up of centre-right politicians, has infuriated the left-leaning S&D group - the key driving force behind the proposals.
“I am deeply disappointed the EPP bowed to pressure from the tobacco lobby by voting for the postponement of this vote,” said group president Hannes Swoboda.
One leading European parliamentary expert told The Grocer the postponement would have serious ramifications for the outcome of the directive - which in its current form will outlaw the sale of 10-packs of cigarettes, any packs of handrolling tobacco under 40g, slims and flavoured tobacco, including menthols.
“The timeframe was already extremely tight,” he said. “There is a chance that it may not even be brought in during this session of parliament.”
However, he added, Linda McAvan, the S&D MEP and the parliament’s rapporteur on the issue, had put too much work into the directive to let that happen and he expected major compromises to be reached in order to get it through before new European elections next summer.