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Cautious on heat-not-burn

The European Commission is in favor of a cautious approach to heat-not-burn products because it believes that there is a lack of evidence relating to the short- and long-term health effects of using such devices.

This was part of the answer given by the Commission to questions raised by the Belgian MEP, Frédérique Ries.

In a preamble to her questions, Ries said that Philip Morris International had said that it intended to market its new ‘device for smoking’ in the UK, following its initial launch in Japan, Italy and Switzerland.

‘The distinctive feature of this new product, which has been named iQOS, is that it stands on the borderline between traditional cigarettes and electronic cigarettes,’ she said.

‘The major difference between iQOS and electronic cigarettes is that while the latter use a liquid transformed into vapor, IQOS heats the tobacco and keeps it burning [iQOS has been designed so as not to burn the tobacco it contains, only to heat it, as is implied in part of the Commission’s reply], which is very harmful to health.’

Ries asked whether the Commission concurred with health experts who claimed that marketing a hybrid tobacco product of this kind was a ploy to circumvent legislation in force and, in particular, all the requirements laid down in Article 19 of Directive 2014/40/EU concerning novel tobacco products.

‘What steps will the Commission take to thwart the strategies employed by cigarette manufacturers to sell alternative products that are still just as harmful to people’s health?’ she asked.

‘Will the Commission take this opportunity to alter its negative views on electronic cigarettes, which, as a growing number of cancer experts in the EU are now pointing out, do not contain any tobacco or tar and are helping many people to stop smoking?’

In reply, the Commission said it was closely monitoring the developments related to new tobacco products, including “heated not burned” tobacco products.

‘Currently, there is lack of evidence relating to short-term and long-term health effects and use patterns of these products,’ it said. ‘Therefore the Commission is in favour of a cautious approach.

‘At the same time, the Commission would like to underline that with regard to the sale, presentation and manufacturing of these products within the European Union, the relevant provisions of the Tobacco Products Directive apply and should be enforced. This includes the ban on misleading elements foreseen by Article 13 and notably any suggestions that a particular tobacco product is less harmful than others.

The Commission oversees whether member states fully and correctly apply the provisions of the directive.

‘With regard to e-cigarettes, given the lack of conclusive evidence relating to the long-term health effects, use patterns and potential to facilitate smoking cessation, Article  20 of the directive contains their regulation with an emphasis on safety, quality and consumer protection.

‘The rules for e-cigarettes nevertheless allow these products to remain widely available to consumers. A recent Commission report COM (2016) 269 underlines a number of  potential risks to public health relating to the use of ecigarettes, at the same time highlighting the need for further research.’

EU Comes Up With A Plan To Prevent Illicit Cigarette Trade

A draft report commissioned by the EU has stated a Europe-wide system should be developed to track cigarettes , which should be run by the industry together with independent third parties, according to the Financial Times. This new program should be up and running by May 2019 in order to prevent the smuggling and counterfeiting of cigarettes, which costs €10 billion a year, according to the European Commission. As per the new laws, European Union countries must ensure that all tobacco packets are “marked with a unique identifier,” as well as a security stamp, so that the packet can be tracked from the factory to the shop floor. The Commission is yet to decide whether the tracking and tracing program should be implemented by the tobacco industry itself, or if it should be given to a third party.

While the commission says that the tobacco companies must work with numerous third parties to implement this system, the tobacco industry has maintained that it should be allowed to run the system by itself, arguing that external influence would cause disruption. Meanwhile, anti-tobacco groups have asserted the need for outside help to tackle this problem, given past allegations that some tobacco groups have benefited as a result of smuggling of, and illicit trade in, cigarettes. This recommendation comes after the ending of a $1.25 billion tracing deal between the EU and Philip Morris International ( PM ) this year, which was agreed in 2004, following criticism by lawmakers.

What Are Illicit Cigarettes?

Illicit cigarettes enter or are sold in a market in violation of certain rules and regulations, such as without payment of import duties, excise tax, or VAT. Such products can be genuine products manufactured by a official tobacco company, and sold without payment of applicable taxes, or else counterfeit cigarettes, made without the consent of the trademark owner. A number of regulatory measures and actions have been taken up by the government in response to this. Such trade harms governments, consumers, and manufacturers. According to World Health Organization (WHO) estimates, the illegal, unregulated black market in cigarettes amounts to 11% of the global consumption. Tobacco manufacturers themselves have taken a series of measures to ensure their brands are protected and consumers receive genuine products.

How Bad Is The Situation?

Counterfeit and Contraband (C&C) cigarettes declined by 6% in 2015 in the EU, over the previous year. This was against a backdrop of improved economic conditions and increased measures undertaken to counter the illicit trade activities. According to the Economic Intelligence Unit, personal disposable income rose at an average of 2.6% in 2015 across all EU member states. This may have prompted consumers to increase the consumption of Legal Domestic Sales (LDS). Furthermore, after a rise in tobacco taxes to meet the minimum EU excise requirements in a number of countries in 2014, 2015 was a year of more stable prices, which contributed to the decline in the sales of C&C cigarettes; prices rose by three percentage points less in 2015 than in 2014.


However, C&C still accounts for close to 10% of the total consumption, with high consumption in countries such as Greece, Norway, UK, and Ireland, which have the highest prices within Europe. In Eastern EU, high levels of C&C were seen in those regions bordering non-EU countries, where average prices tended to be four times lower. France was noted to have the largest volume of C&C, though it did not have the highest level as a proportion of consumption.


The major source of C&C are non-EU countries, with Belarus being the largest contributor, followed by Ukraine, Algeria, and Russia. The volume of counterfeit cigarettes continued to decline from EU countries, accounting for just 12.2% of the total in 2015.


Illicit Whites (IW), which are cigarettes manufactured legally in one country, but which are smuggled across borders, accounted for over a third of C&C, of which 5.3 billion cigarettes has Belarusian labeling. These have grown as a proportion of total C&C from 7.8 billion in 2009, to 18.8 billion in 2015. Further, counterfeit cigarettes increased 28% during 2015, but remain less than 9% of the illicit consumption in Europe.


During 2015, Philip Morris reported revenue, net of excise, from its EU segment of $8.07 billion. If we consider the rate of illicit trade in EU to be 10%, this would amount to over $800 million in lost revenue for the company. In May, the company pledged $100 million to fund projects to confront this problem. The company has come up with a new initiative – PMI IMPACT – to combat illicit trade practices. Besides expending the aforementioned sum, the initiative will also raise funds from public and non-governmental organizations. Given the large amount of lost revenue annually for Philip Morris from just the EU region, this is definitely a move that would be beneficial to the company.



1) The purpose of these analyses is to help readers focus on a few important things. We hope such lean communication sparks thinking, and encourages readers to comment and ask questions on the comment section, or email

2) Figures mentioned are approximate values to help our readers remember the key concepts more intuitively. For precise figures, please refer to our complete analysis for Philip Morris International .


In Greece’s tobacco culture, passive smoke a serious problem

Nearly two-thirds of Greeks are inhaling someone else’s tobacco smoke on a daily basis, making Greece the worst nation in the European Union in exposing its people to the health risks of passive smoking.

The European Union’s statistical office Eurostat said Wednesday that 64.2 percent of Greeks suffered daily exposure to tobacco smoke indoors. Second in the EU is Croatia with 44.7 percent, followed by Bulgaria with 40.5 percent. At the other end, Sweden best protects its people from secondhand smoke with only 5.9 percent exposed, even better than Finland with 6.3 percent.

In a tally of EU smokers aged 15 and over, Bulgaria tops the rankings with 34.7 percent, ahead of Greece with 32.6 percent. Sweden only has 16.7 percent who smoke, with Britain the second-lowest with 17.2 percent.

1 in every 4 persons aged 15 or over in the European Union is a smoker

Download (PDF, 151KB)

One quarter of people living in the EU smoke tobacco, new statistics reveal

New statistics published on Wednesday by Eurostat, the European Union’s statistics office, reveal one quarter of people living in the EU smoke tobacco.

In addition to those who smoke themselves, one in every five are passively exposed to tobacco smoke.

The new report measured how much those aged over 15 years old smoke. The data represents people’s habits in 2014. It was compiled between 2013 and 2015 and was extracted from the European Health Interview Survey.

Its findings indicate that nearly 24 percent of people in the EU smoke, when including those who only smoke occasionally. It also shows the share of men who smoke, is significantly higher than that of women.

The report, part of the European Health Interview Survey, adds that tobacco consumption is one of the largest avoidable health risks in the EU: many forms of cancer, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases are linked to tobacco use.

How it compares

The 2014 figures, when compared with the last time the EU looked at tobacco consumption in 2010, suggests a decreasing trend in tobacco usage among EU citizens.

Six years ago, 29 percent of people living in the EU considered themselves active smokers, nearly five percentage points higher than in the EU’s current evaluation.

The report also shows a drop in the percentage of smokers in the countries which previously had the highest population of tobacco users.

In Greece, 42 percent of those aged over 15 said they smoked in 2010. That number has dropped to 32 percent.

While still in the top two countries for tobacco consumption, this drop is significant and now places Greece below Bulgaria.

Sweden remains the country with the lowest percentage of smokers, with a consistent 16 percent of the population admitting to tobacco use in both surveys.

Here is a breakdown of the 2016 report data:

Smoking EU-wide: As percentage of population



Percentage of population by country aged at least 15 years old…

Non-smoking/ Current smokers


Daily exposure to tobacco smoke indoors within EU countries


Total smoking in the EU according to gender





EC consults on tobacco excise duties

The European Commission (EC) has opened a public consultation on the revision of Directive 2011/64/EU, which sets out EU rules on the structure and rates of excise duty applied to manufactured tobacco. EU citizens and stakeholders alike are invited to give their opinions.

Directive 2011/64/EU defines and classifies various manufactured tobacco products according to their characteristics and lays down the relevant minimum rates of excise duty for the different types of products. These rates are reviewed every four years. The EC’s last report, in December 2015, said there could be scope to improve Directive 2011/64/EU in order to reduce the administrative burden for both member states and economic operators and reduce distortions in the internal market. The report was accompanied by a proposal for the revision of the Directive.

The consultation is intended to add to the possible policy options under analysis. It closes on 16 February 2017.


Earlier this year Philip Morris International (PMI) launched PMI IMPACT – a funding initiative for projects “dedicated to fighting illegal trade and related crimes, such as corruption, organized [sic] crime and money laundering”. In its first funding call in 2016, PMI IMPACT invited proposals focusing specifically on the illicit tobacco trade in the European Union (EU). Public organisations, law enforcement, private entities and nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) were all encouraged to submit.

The initiative puts forward three focus areas; research, education and awareness, and action. Each proposal is required to address at least one area.

PMI pledged US$100 million for three funding rounds and publicised that more than 200 expressions of interest had been submitted to the first funding call from 170 organisations, including government agencies, universities, research institutes and private entities.

Funding applications are judged by an expert panel, consisting of seven individuals with very close links to various United Nations (UN) agencies. These include Mahmoud Cherif Bassiouni, who has previously held 22 UN positions, Catherine Volz, who served in the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) for over 18 years, and Suzanne Hayden, former senior advisor to the UNODC.

PMI IMPACT is not the first research funding initiative from the tobacco company. In 2000, it launched the PMI External Research Program (PMERP), which administered grants to scientists for research on multiple topics, including nontobacco causes of cardiovascular diseases and genetic susceptibility to cancers. Such initiatives are tied to the tobacco industry’s long history of producing misleading research, begining with its attempts in the early 1950s to discredit the then newly-proven causal link between smoking and lung cancer. PMI IMPACT can be seen as another attempt at controlling the discourse around science, the research itself and its

The illicit tobacco trade is one of several policy areas where the tobacco industry is attempting to not only gain access to the policy process, but also to take part in this process as a valued expert and stakeholder.

However, given the industry’s historic complicity in the illicit trade, its questionable preexisting research on the topic and its repeated use of illicit trade as a counter argument to the further regulation of its products, its motives in launching PMI IMPACT are arguably spurious.

In 2004, PMI paid the EU $1.25 billion to settle claims over the company’s involvement in tobacco smuggling, and committed to produce an annual ‘Project Star’ report about illicit tobacco in the EU. These reports were created by the global accountancy firm KPMG and have been widely criticised by academics. PMI has also commissioned multiple KPMG reports on illicit tobacco in Australia. Cancer Council Victoria has produced critiques of several of these reports leading to the Australian Government stated in 2013 that “the tobacco industry`s estimates of the size of the illicit market are not considered to be accurate”. Multiple tobacco companies have commissioned similar reports by Deloitte – another global accountancy firm.

Internal documents include examples of PMI internal documents include examples of the company attempting to influence the drafting of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). In 2000, for example, PMI argued to the US Departments of Commerce and Health and Human Services that government involvement with the tobacco industry would be a more effective way of combating illicit trade than the measures put forward in the FCTC. The consultancy group Mongoven, Biscoe & Duchin Inc advised PMI that future FCTC protocols would have a bigger impact on the tobacco industry than the FCTC itself and so should become the company’s main focus. PMI IMPACT might be seen as a key part of continued efforts to undermine policy, particularly the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products, known as the Illicit Trade Protocol (ITP).

Calls for new research on a particular topic carry with them the underlying suggestion that pre-existing research is flawed or lacking. The arrival of PMI IMPACT may be an attempt by the industry to further control data on illicit trade and use this to influence policy. With only 17 Parties needed before the ITP enters into force, it is essential that PMI IMPACT, and the research that results from it, are viewed with intense scrutiny by researchers and Governments alike.

Allen Gallagher & Karen Evans-Reeves,
Tobacco Control Research Group,
University of Bath


The ball is rolling internationally as more countries ban menthol cigarettes, including flavour capsules, as well as other flavoured tobacco products.

The rationale to ban menthol is clear and compelling.

Menthol soothes the throat making it easier to smoke, and makes it easier for kids to experiment and get addicted.

Menthol also discourages adults from quitting.

On 31 May 2015, the Canadian province of Nova Scotia became the first place in the world to implement a menthol cigarette ban. The menthol ban applies to all tobacco products. 7 out of 10 Canadian provinces have adopted menthol bans as part of broader flavoured tobacco bans.

The Canadian government is preparing a national menthol cigarette ban.

In the European Union (EU), a menthol cigarette ban will come into force 20 May 2020 for all 28 EU countries. Turkey and Moldova will do likewise on 20 May 2020. In Africa, Ethiopia and Uganda have adopted legislation banning flavours including menthol.

In recent years, a major tobacco industry strategy has been the marketing of cigarettes with squeezable flavour capsules. Sales of capsule cigarettes are significant and growing in many countries. While menthol is the most common flavour in capsules, other flavours are also being used.

In the EU, a ban on flavoured capsules came into force at the manufacturer level on 20 May 2016. Germany and Belgium were the first countries with cigarette capsule bans, prior to the EU requirement. Canadian provincial legislation banning menthol includes a capsule ban.

There is a positive, accelerating international trend to ban menthol, capsules and flavours in tobacco products, and thus respond to industry practices to increase tobacco product attractiveness and sales.

Rob Cunningham
Canadian Cancer Society

Blu unveils new vaping range to comply with EU tobacco product legislation

E-smoking brand Blu has unveiled its next-generation range ahead of the deadline for retailers to sell off stocks that don’t comply with strict EU legislation.

From 27 May 2017, it will be unlawful to sell vaping products that contravene EU Tobacco Products Directive II (EUTPD II), which focus on quality and safety, and include the requirement for a product warning stating, “This product contains nicotine, which is a highly addictive substance.”

The new EUTPD II-compliant line-up from Blu will roll out on 1 November with improved technology ‘to provide a better experience for consumers’. It includes a PRO e-cig kit, with a Clearomiser mouthpiece, and a selection of e-liquids.

The brand has also launched a guide to EUTPD II to help retailers understand the changes being put in place.

The vaping market was booming, with a retail sales value of £168m and showing an 18% increase on sales last year, according to Jennifer Roberts, vice-president of customer marketing at Blu (UK). “But it’s going to see a lot of change over the next six to nine months as the next stage of legislation comes into effect,” she added.

Retailers should begin to promote non-compliant stock to sell through, said Roberts. “By beginning the changeover to compliant stock as soon as possible, retailers will give a positive message to shoppers and show they understand the category and are a credible vaping stockist.”

Sex, Lies, and Cigarettes

In this Emmy-nominated documentary, Christof Putzel investigates Big Tobacco’s successful and deadly expansion into the developing world. From the smoking baby to the Marlboro Man, little is off limits in the “Wild West” of the world’s fastest growing smokers market.

-Overseas Press Club Award
-Prism Award

Sex, Lies, and Cigarettes from Christof Putzel on Vimeo.