European Parliament passes new rules aimed at reducing smoking

By Jenna Iacurci, Parent Herald February 26, 05:00 pm

The European Parliament has voted to include new health picture warnings on the front and back of cigarette packaging in the European Union. This and other new rules, such as a ban on flavored cigarettes, like menthol, represent an attempt to cut the number of smokers by 2.4 million.

The EU Tobacco Products Directive rules include:

- Picture warnings must cover 65 percent of the front and back of every packet of cigarettes, with additional warnings on the top of the pack

- A ban on "lipstick-style" packs aimed at women - all packs must have at least 20 cigarettes to leave room for health warnings

- A ban on promotional elements, such saying "this product is free of additives" or is less harmful than other brands

- A maximum nicotine-concentration level for e-cigarettes.

- Roll-your-own tobacco packs to have similar picture warnings

EU Health Commissioner Tonio Borg applauded the move.

"These measures put an end to products which entice children and teenagers into starting to smoke in the European Union," he said, according to BBC News.

The guidelines are expected to go into effect May 2014 - following approval from ministers in March - with the hope that they will "deter young people from experimenting with, and becoming addicted to, tobacco," according to the European Commission. The group said it anticipates a 2 percent drop in the amount smoked over the next five years, an important step given that there are 700,000 premature deaths caused by smoking annually in the EU.

Pro-smokers, like Simon Clark, the director of the pro-smoking campaign group Forest, oppose the change.

"At the very least the government should wait and see what impact the larger warnings have before introducing standardized packs which are opposed by so many people."

Others are more enthusiastic, however.

"Today marks a genuine turning point for European tobacco control - and a huge stride towards a tobacco-free Europe," said Archie Turnbull, the president the Smoke Free Partnership.

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