EU backs tougher anti-smoking laws

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EU tobacco legislation 2014

Tough new EU laws means larger warnings on tobacco products.

This week the European Parliament voted in favour of stricter anti-smoking laws which will make health warnings on packets larger. Graphic warnings can already be found in some EU countries, but now they will have to be bigger and used in all 28 member states from 2016.

The new warnings will have to cover 65 percent of the front and back of packets, and half of the sides. They will also have to include written warnings such as “smoking kills”. Currently warnings only cover 30-40 percent of packages.

The new legislation also tackles the grey area of e-cigarettes, which are currently much less regulated than traditional tobacco products. It also sets out rules for advertising, and bans flavoured tobacco items.

Experts have argued that flavoured cigarettes mask the taste of tobacco, and are often the products that young smokers start with. Menthol cigarettes have been granted an extension, but will be outlawed by 2020, according to the new law.

The new legislation has been welcomed as a “milestone in helping to reduce the number of smokers in the 28 country bloc” by health advocates. The tobacco industry has condemned the ruling as “burdensome” on an industry which pays a lot of taxes.

Philip Morris International said the legislation will make the EU market less competitive and fuel black markets sales of tobacco. The legislation still requires approval from EU governments next month, which it is widely expected to receive.

Other restrictions on advertising and sales in the last decade, as well as wide-ranging bans on smoking in public places, are credited with helping lower the smoking rate from 40 percent of the EU’s 500 million citizens to the 28 percent estimated today.

Even with the drop in the number of smokers, the EU estimates the number of smoking related deaths is around 700,000 each year across the 28 member countries and the cost of treating smoking related disease is 25 billion euro a year.