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Europolitics mandatory health warnings and further restrictions



Tobacco directive: Details emerge

By Sophie Petitjean | Friday 14 December 2012

“Smoking kills – quit now” and “Tobacco smoke contains over 70 substances known to cause cancer”: these health warnings could soon become mandatory on each unit packet of tobacco for smoking, as proposed by the draft Directive on Tobacco Products, which Europolitics has seen. The text, which dates from before the interservice consultation, aims to make tobacco products less attractive in order to discourage people from picking up their first cigarette. It bans flavoured tobacco products, long cigarettes and overly-attractive packets. Moreover, it allows member states to maintain or introduce stricter measures for domestically manufactured or imported products on the basis of public interest, “provided that these measures are proportionate, do not constitute arbitrary discrimination and […] are accepted by the European Commission.”

The adoption of the proposal is on the agenda of the College of Commissioners on 19 December.


Firstly, the Commission has proposed regulating on cigarette packages and cigarettes themselves. A cigarette packet should be rectangular and include at least 20 cigarettes, and 75% of its surfaces, recto and verso, should be covered with health warnings (images and text). Furthermore, these health warnings, which should be a minimum of 64 millimetres long and 55 millimetres wide – should be positioned at the top edge of the unit packet. A unit packet of rolling tobacco should contain at least 40 grammes of tobacco. The proposed text specifies that member states should not increase the size of health warnings by introducing, for example, the obligation to surround health warnings with a border. The same logic applies to the form and content of cigarettes, which should in future meet precise criteria: the draft directive proposes imposing a right circular cylindrical form on cigarettes, and a diameter of between 7.5 mm and 8.5 mm. Member states should affix a single indentifier, and a bar code of at least one cm 2 on cigarette packets in order to avoid fraud, with a dispensation of five years for products other than cigarettes and rolling tobacco. Unlike Australian legislation, this directive does not regulate on colour and depth.


The Commission has also proposed regulating the ingredients of tobacco products. The proposed text establishes a maximum threshold per cigarette for tar (ten mg), nicotine (one mg) and carbon monoxide (ten mg). It forbids adding special flavourings and certain additives, such as vitamins, caffeine, taurine and other stimulating additives associated with energy and vitality. This ban also applies to the ingredients of tobacco products, such as filters, papers, packages, capsules and other elements that alter flavour and smoke. As for ingredients that will remain authorised, these will be subject to the obligation to provide information: producers and importers of tobacco products will have to draw up a list of all ingredients used in the manufacturing of products, justify the presence of these ingredients, and classify them according to their quantities.


These new rules will also apply to new products (those placed on the market after 1 January 2012). These will be subject to a notification obligation six months before they are placed on the market. The draft directive also covers products whose nicotine content surpasses a certain amount (two mg per unit, or a concentration of four mg per ml). Finally, it forbids tobacco for oral use (except that which is smoked or chewed) while maintaining Sweden’s dispensation for snus.


The draft text is only provisional, since the College of Commissioners has not yet adopted it. However, very few changes have been made during the interservice consultation. Some measures have disappeared since the summer, including a ban on all smokeless products. The same goes for the obligation for tobacconists to restrict their presentations to one packet per brand and per threshold, as well as those concerning the presence of 85% tobacco in products.

However, the proposal is not immune to further changes, since health advisers for each commissioner are due to give their opinions on the text on 14 December, and heads of cabinet on 17 December. Parliament and Council must then adopt the legislative proposal.

Copyright © 2012 Europolitics. Tous droits réservés.

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