Commission consults about the best way to act against smoking

The European Commission has launched a public consultation on the revision of the Tobacco Products Directive (2001/37/EC), in order to find out possible measures to improve awareness of the dangers of tobacco use, increase motivation to quit and discourage initiation of smoking. Interested parties can submit their opinions and comments to the Commission by 19 November 2010.

Accounting for around 650.000 premature deaths each year, tobacco is the single largest cause of avoidable death in the European Union. For that reason and to help reduce tobacco consumption throughout the Union and also internationally, the Commission pursues a comprehensive tobacco control policy. A wide range of activities and initiatives including tobacco control legislation and awareness raising activities contribute to this end.

The Tobacco Products Directive currently in force dates from 2001, and stipulates maximum limits  in cigarettes for substances such as nicotine, tar and carbon monoxide. It also requires manufacturers to put textual health warnings on tobacco products and bans terms such as "light", "mild" or "low tar".

Examples measures that could be considered to reform this regulation are bigger, double-sided health pictorial warnings on cigarette packages, plain packaging and the regulation of harmful, addictive and attractive substances in tobacco products. The public consultation on revision of the tobacco products Directive is an important step towards the adoption of a legislative proposal planned for beginning of 2012.

Commission's initiative is in response to requests by the European Parliament as well as the Commission's report on the implementation of the Directive that identified potential areas for improvement, as well as Council recommendation on smoke-free environments. In the EP's Resolution of 2007 on the Green Paper "Towards a Europe free from Tobacco smoke: policy options at EU level", the Member States were asked to reduce smoking in young people by 50% by 2025. Stricter rules on tobacco products would be an important contribution to achieve this target.

Key elements on the consultation on revision of the tobacco products Directive

  • Legislation in Member States varies widely across the EU and does not sufficiently address health and safety concerns relating to certain tobacco and nicotine products such as electronic cigarettes.
  • Pictorial warnings are currently used in four Member States: Belgium, Romania, the UK and Latvia. This means that the level of information for EU consumers about the dangers of smoking can vary considerably from one Member State to another.
  • Regulation allowing or forbidding potentially harmful, addictive and attractive substances, including flavours, varies widely between Member States.
  • Information on ingredients in tobacco is difficult to understand, compare and analyse at present. This is due to a variety of formats and reporting mechanisms in different Member States.