Members of the European Parliament have voted to ban 10 packs of cigarettes across the EU. A number of other measures relating to tobacco are set to be implemented however MEPs did reject a number of proposals put forward by the European Commission. Among the defeated proposal was a plan to treat electronic cigarettes as medicinal products – although separate legislation in theUKwill see e-cigs reclassified in 2016, giving them a two-year reprieve.
Slim cigarettes have also escaped a ban, and while a ban on cigarette flavourings was passed, there will be a five-year delay before menthol cigarettes are banned. There will also be a ban on using the words ‘light’, ‘mild’ and ‘low-tar’ on packs.
Health warnings, which currently must cover 30% of one side and 40% of the other side of a pack, will now increase to 65%. This is lower than the 75% which had been proposed. The proposals also included banning smaller packs of RYO tobacco; this was also defeated.
Calling the vote “gesture politics”, John Drummond, Chief Executive of the SGF said the MEPs were out of touch with the real situation in Scotland. He said: “We see no health benefit whatsoever from these measures – if you want people to cut down on something or stop using it you don’t force them to buy more of it – and they will only boost the illicit trade. These bans will only damage business and impact on our members’ ability to invest and create jobs in their communities – convenience stores provide over 41,000 jobs inScotland. MEPs need to spend less time inBrussels and more time talking to retailers and defending their interests”
Imperial Tobacco said the increased space to be given over to health warnings was
unjustified and disproportionate, claiming they would not provide any additional information on the health risks of smoking but are “designed solely to stigmatise smokers.”
In a statement the company behind Lambert & Butler and Golden Virginia brands, said: “Misguided proposals to ban menthol tobacco products threaten to further fuel illicit trade, undermining our significant work with OLAF and EU Member States to tackle the problem.
“Proposals to ban sales of cigarettes in packs of less than 20 or roll-your own (RYO) tobacco in pouches of less than 20g will have a detrimental effect on retailers’ incomes. Nearly a third of theUKcigarette market is sold in packs of less than 20 cigarettes and just under half of the UK RYO tobacco market sold is in quantities of less than 20g. These proposals will deliver a body blow to legitimate retailers and business throughout the supply chain.”
The company did however say that “some elements of common sense” emerged from the vote however, including the rejection of calls to legislate e-cigarettes as pharmaceutical products. “This is a step in the right direction which, if followed through, will spare the unnecessary destruction of an emerging consumer goods sector at a time of economic recession across the EU,” said the statement.
JTI said that while it supported the European Commission’s objective of reducing youth smoking, the proposals would not achieve this goal. The B&H andMayfairmaker said that the plans had not been thought through, lacked reliable evidence and were unlikely to have an impact on smoking rates.
JTI also said that many of the proposed measures will make it easier and cheaper for criminals to produce and sell cigarettes that are not tested, not regulated and not taxed.
Commenting on the vote, Jorge da Motta, UK Managing Director, JTI said: “The EU is set to ban 43% of cigarette packs and 64% of RYO pouches sold inUKshops. It is astonishing that the European Parliament has decided to take forward a policy for tobacco products which will effectively force consumers of these products to ‘supersize’ their tobacco purchases.
“Increasing the lowest price of a legitimate packet of cigarettes and pack of rolling tobacco above the “illegal street price” also risks tempting many more smokers to buy from criminals who don’t care who their customers are or about the quality of the product that they sell.
Negotiations will continue between European ministers, and the legislation could be fast-tracked through the European Parliament before the May 2014 European elections. Implementing the changes intoUKlaw could take between 18 and 24 months.