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EU vote to usher in tough new standards on tobacco

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by Cancer Research UK | News

26 February 2014

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Tough new anti-tobacco measures will go further than ever before in safeguarding health and helping to end the tobacco industry’s ability to peddle their lethal products across Europe according to Cancer Research UK today (Wednesday).

The “yes” vote in the European Parliament supporting the EU Tobacco Products Directive* sets minimum standards that the UK must meet on tobacco control, including: 

  • Mandatory picture health warnings covering 65 per cent of the front and back of each cigarette pack. These warnings will be at the top of each pack. The UK and Ireland are already considering plain, standardised packaging for cigarette packs.
  • A ban on flavours such as menthol, fruit and vanilla.
  • Strong tracking and tracing provisions that allow tobacco products to be followed across the entire supply chain, from where they were produced to where they are sold. This will help in the fight against tobacco smuggling.
  • New rules for nicotine-containing products. E-cigarettes will be regulated either as medicinal products, if they make quit claims, or as consumer products. 

Following formal adoption, the UK will have two years to turn these measures into national law. An extended deadline of six years has been agreed for the phasing out of menthol flavouring.

Alison Cox, Cancer Research UK’s head of tobacco policy, said: “Today is a great day for health. The Tobacco Products Directive sets standards on tobacco which will bring real benefits for people’s health in the UK and across Europe. We are pleased that the UK and Ireland are already going further than the Directive demands by considering standardised packaging.

“This measure is based on the consistent evidence that stripping cigarette packs of their clever designs and bright colours reduces the appeal of smoking. We encourage other EU governments to do the same and to keep working together to protect people from tobacco harm.”

The UK government is expected to announce further details for the introduction of standard packs after an independent review reports back on the issue at the end of March.

Archie Turnbull, President of the Smoke Free Partnership, of which Cancer Research UK is a member, said: “Today marks a genuine turning point for European tobacco control – and a huge stride towards a tobacco free Europe. The European Parliament’s vote will help protect young people and children across Europe, saving many lives and helping prevent young Europeans from starting to smoke. Furthermore, it sends a clear signal that Europe takes seriously its obligations under the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.”

Alison Cox added: “We also commend the sustained efforts of the European officials who worked hard to deliver a strong Tobacco Products Directive before the end of this parliamentary term in May – in particular Linda McAvan MEP who steered the proposed law through the European Parliament despite repeated delays and attempted obstructions from the tobacco industry.”

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 16 per cent of all adult deaths in Europe are due to tobacco. Tobacco-related diseases, including many cancers, affect some 13 million people worldwide.


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