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Calls made by MEPs for plain tobacco packaging

Plans to revise a European Commission directive on tobacco additives and labelling were debated by MEPs in Brussels yesterday

Calls for compulsory plain packaging on tobacco products and a ban on flavour additives were made by several MEPs at a debate on tobacco regulation in Brussels yesterday (February 25).

Members of the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee discussed the possible impacts on public health, business and tax revenues of updating the Tobacco Products Directive (2001/37/EC).

MEPs debated proposals to revise the Tobacco Products Directive 2001

MEPs debated proposals to revise the Tobacco Products Directive 2001

The debate featured calls from MEPs for further regulation on tobacco products in order to curb smoking levels, with ideas such as compulsory plain package warnings and a ban on flavouring and toxic additives to tobacco.

The proposals focus on smokeless tobacco products, packaging and labelling, ingredients/additives, cross-border distance sales and traceability and security issues. They also aim to assist with the implementation of international obligations under the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).

Rapporteur for the proposals, Yorkshire and The Humber MEP Linda McAvan, said that the key aim was to help recruit fewer and fewer smokers.

Speaking during the debate, Health and Consumer Policy commissioner Tonio Borg said: Tobacco should look like tobacco and taste like tobacco as well, not like vanilla or other sweets. These products are produced in this way to be attractive to the young. Lets not forget that most people start smoking below the age of 25 and the majority when they are still minors.

Irish health minister and current chair of the European Council of Health Ministers, James Reilly, said he pledged to tackle the problem and called for the regulation of tobacco products, comprehensive assistance to smokers who want to quit and media information campaigns.

Swedish Green Party MEP Carl Schlyter supported plain package warnings and a ban on tobacco flavouring, adding: nicotine is an extremely powerful drug in terms of dependency, so any kind of product containing it should be regulated in a strict way.

no brainer

However, Anna Rosbach said: Everyone needs to be protected, but lets not forget that governments need the revenues generated by tobacco. The fiscal impact is something we have to bear in mind.

Replying to Mrs Rosbach, Mr Reilly cited heavy smoking costs on health and lost working days: Any smoker who stops is a good investment. Economically, it’s a no-brainer.

A report on the proposals to revise the Directive will now be drafted by Mrs McAvan and put to an Environment Committee vote on 10-11 July 2013.

On Friday (February 22) the European Commission published a report that found there had been a fall in the number of Europeans exposed to second-hand smoke from 46% in 2009 to 28% in 2012 (see airqualitynews.com story).

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