Monthly Archives: July 2013

EU lawmakers vote to ban menthol, flavoured cigarettes and introduce larger warnings

July 10, 2013

Lawmakers at the European Parliament on Wednesday approved a ban on menthol and other flavored cigarettes as part of broad legislation that will sharply restrict how tobacco products can be sold across the 28-nation European Union.

Lawmakers at the European Parliament on Wednesday approved a ban on menthol and other flavored cigarettes as part of broad legislation that will sharply restrict how tobacco products can be sold across the 28-nation European Union.

The legislation would also require most “electronic” cigarettes-battery-powered devices that turn a liquid nicotine mixture into an inhalable mist-to be regulated like medicines. That could subject the increasingly popular devices, used primarily by smokers to help quit, to extensive safety testing in some EU countries where they are now unregulated.

The rules add another barrier to the sales efforts of tobacco giants such as British American Tobacco and Imperial Tobacco Group. Governments around the world are cracking down on tobacco products. Australia has arguably been most aggressive, with rules that went into effect this year banning all logos or brand imagery on cigarette boxes, replacing them with gruesome images of tobacco-related diseases.

Wednesday’s vote, in a key committee of the parliament, means the ban on flavored cigarettes is likely to become law, since EU national governments also banned menthols as part of their version of the legislation last month. The entire parliament must now vote on the law, though the result will be similar, people following the legislation said.

The legislation targeted flavored cigarettes because experts believe they hold a special appeal for children.

But there are other differences between the parliament and the national governments that must be resolved before the new rules can become law and enter into force over the next three years.

Among them is a ban on “slim” cigarettes that was backed by the parliament but not by the national governments, which chose instead to ban slim cigarette packaging designed by cigarette makers to look like lipstick or perfume in an effort to appeal to younger women.

Also, the parliament’s version of the legislation would require that 75% of the surface area of cigarette packaging contain pictorial health warnings. The version backed by national governments calls for just 65% of cigarette packaging to contain the warnings.

Menthols account for about 5% of the EU cigarette market and slims about 6%, according to the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm.

“We still believe that elements of theā€¦proposal, such as enlarged health warnings and a ban on various products consumed by many millions of adults, remain disproportionate; are unlikely to succeed in addressing public health objectives; and potentially breach European Union Law,” a British American Tobacco spokesman said.

Packaging restrictions aren’t the most effective measures to cut smoking, said Rey Wium, a tobacco industry analyst at Renaissance Capital in London. Indoor smoking bans have a bigger impact, he said.

“The best way of curbing smoking is through excise tax increases,” Mr. Wium said. “The biggest risk to the companies is abnormal, or ‘shock’ excise tax increases, substantially above inflation.”

“The tobacco industry has been operating in a dark environment for quite some time,” he added. “I don’t think this European directive will make life extraordinarily different for them.”

Source: The Wall Street Journal (July 10, 2013)