A ban on slim cigarettes and the use of flavourings in tobacco products were approved by the EP’s public health committee on 10 July in a bid to make smoking less attractive for young people. The tougher rules also include a requirement for health warnings on every side of a cigarette pack, but leaves the door open for life saving e cigarettes. The new legislation should help to reduce the 700,000 people dying each year due to smoking, the EU’s leading cause of preventable death.

Protecting the young

Linda McAvan, who wrote the draft recommendation, was clear about the proposal’s aims “The focus is to prevent the industry from recruiting new smokers among the young.” The British member of the S&D group said in general the number of smokers was going down, adding There is a worrying drift 29% of young people smoke.

What could change

The public health committee amended the plans for an updated tobacco product directive to ban the use of additives and flavours such as menthol and strawberry in tobacco products as well as the use of vitamins, caffeine and taurine, as these seemed designed to attract young people.

Health warnings would have to be on all sides of a packet and cover at least 75% of both the front and the back. Slim cigarettes, meaning those with a diameter of less than 7.5 millimetres, and packets with fewer than 20 cigarettes would be prohibited, as would misleading labels such as light and ultralight suggesting that some products are less harmful.

E cigarettes should be sold under existing rules on medicinal products, however member states should make sure they are also available outside pharmacies, because of their potential to help people stop smoking.


MEPs will debate the proposal during plenary on 9 September and vote on it the following day. The final version of the rules will have to be agreed with member states. The Council has already come to a political agreement, which will serve as the basis for its negotiations with Parliament.

Eu bans flavoured cigarettes in crackdown on ‘gimmicky’ tobacco products

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Proposals have been led by Labour MEP Linda McAvan which could also make e cigarettes subject to the same advertising restrictions as tobacco products. A measure to subject e cigarettes to the same measures as medicinal products was not carried through.

McAvan said “We need to stop tobacco companies targeting young people with an array of gimmicky products and we need to make sure that cigarette packs carry effective warnings.

“In Canada, large pictorial warnings were introduced in 2001 and youth smoking halved”

Under the proposals all fruit menthol flavours and packs of fewer than 20 cigarettes will be banned, but MEPs rejected calls for a ban on slim cigarettes.

Glenis Willmott MEP, Labour’s health spokesperson in the European Parliament, said “This is a product that kills one in two people that use it. There is only one reason tobacco companies produce chocolate and menthol cigarettes and that is to lure children into taking up this lethal addiction.”

The requirement to place health warnings across two thirds of the pack on the front and back marks a significant increase in size with current rules requiring the health warning to cover 30% of the front and 40% of the back. In addition, all branding must now appear on the bottom of the packets.

The European Parliament claims smoking results in 700,000 deaths each year in the EU and measures taken to discourage smoking have helped reduce the proportion of EU citizens who smoke from 40% to 28% between 2002 and 2012.

Once legislation is approved by the EU Council the EU member states will have 18 months to translate the directive into national law.

The deadline for phasing out flavoured cigarettes is three years, with five additional years for menthol cigarettes.

Tobacco products that do not comply with the directive will be “tolerated” for two years, while e cigarettes will need to comply within 36 months.