700,000 deaths a year: tackling smoking in the EU

Smoking continues to be a lethal habit. Out of the 26% of Europeans who smoke, half of them will die prematurely, shortening their life by 14 years on average. From 20 May new European legislation will be in place to make smoking and cigarettes less attractive, especially among young people. Read on to find out what will change and check out our infographic about smokers in the EU.

What is changing

The new directive, which enters in force in all EU countries on Friday 20 May, sets more stringent rules regarding tobacco and related products.

Some of the new rules aim to make smoking less attractive for young people by banning cigarettes and rolling tobacco with charactering flavours, as well as small and cheaper packages for certain tobacco products.

Health warnings — including both picture and text — need to cover 65% of the front and the back of cigarette and roll-your-own tobacco packages, while all promotional and misleading elements on tobacco products are banned.

Manufacturers are obliged to notify novel tobacco products before placing them on the EU market, while they are also required to submit detailed reports to EU countries on the ingredients used in tobacco products, in particular cigarettes and roll-your-own tobacco.

In addition EU countries are allowed to prohibit internet sales of tobacco and related products and e-cigarettes are regulated either as medicinal products — if they are used to help people quit smoking — or as tobacco products.

End of gimmick tobacco products

Tobacco companies tried to prevent the new rules entering into force, but the European Court of Justice ruled against them.

UK S&D member Linda McAvan, who was responsible for steering the new rules through Parliament, welcomed the legislation entering into force this week: “People across the whole of the EU will see tobacco packs change from now on as gimmick tobacco products disappear from the market and tobacco packs carry more health warnings than adverts. These new clear rules, together with other national measures such as bans on smoking in public places, should help stop the tobacco industry from recruiting a new generation of young smokers in Europe. And now that the big tobacco companies lost their case in the European Court of Justice, those member states who have still not fully transposed the directive need to get on and do it.”

The lethal habit

Tobacco consumption is responsible for nearly 700,000 deaths in the EU every year. Smokers suffer more from poor health (as they are more at risk of cancer, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases) and half of them die prematurely (14 years on average).

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