The European Parliament today voted to bring in a raft of new measures aimed at tackling smoking-related harm.
Ten-packs of cigarettes will be banned as part of the European Union Tobacco Products Directive, while pictorial health warnings must cover at least 65% of the front and back of packs – however this was reduced from an original proposal for 75%.
Flavoured cigarettes will be banned, although menthols have been given a five-year stay of execution. Slim cigarettes, which looked set to be outlawed, have also been handed a last minute reprieve.
“It’s incredibly patronising, even to teenagers, and the impact on smoking rates will be negligible”
Angela Harbutt, Forest
Plans to ban any size of pack for rolling tobacco below 40g have also been altered to allow 20g pouches.
Ahead of the vote, pro-tobacco group Forest had slammed the plans to use such large health warnings as a bid to introduce “plain packaging by the back door”.
Today Forest’s Angela Harbutt blasted the switch to 65% warnings as “gesture politics”.
“It won’t stop people smoking because everyone already knows about the health risks of smoking,” she argued. “It’s incredibly patronising, even to teenagers, and the impact on smoking rates will be negligible.”
In fact Linda McAvan, the Labour MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber who is steering the directive, said today that 65% was still “a long way towards plain packaging”.
As expected the Parliament also voted to reverse plans to regulate electronic cigarettes as medicines. It was argued that this would make e-cigs harder to get hold of than actual tobacco products in some member states.
“We expect retailers who stock e-cigarettes to also be pleased as it may force the UK government to reconsider the MHRA licensing that is due in 2016”
Ben Wilson, Freshcig
Earlier this year the UK government’s medicines watchdog, the MHRA, said it would force e-cigs to be regulated in this way from 2016 to coincide with the EU directive coming into force. Some manufacturers are now calling for the government here to scrap its decision.
“We welcome the decision that the EU won’t class our products as medicinal. We expect retailers who stock e-cigarettes to also be pleased as it may force the UK government to reconsider the MHRA licensing that is due in 2016,” said Freshcig MD Ben Wilson.
“This will allow stores to make more revenue as tobacco products receive further restrictive legislation. However, we do believe that regulation is needed in another form to manage the quality of the products and to protect consumers and retailers alike.”
McAvan will now take the directive as it stands to be voted on by EU health ministers and it is understood that she will seek to reach agreement with them over the proposals by the end of the year.