Minimum warning wider than width of pack, leaves 5 mm for brand name

| April 8, 2013

The EU Commission has denied that proposed changes to its Tobacco Products Directive would have the effect of banning regular-sized cigarette packs produced in two factories in the Azores and sold in the Azores and Portugal.

This is despite the fact that the minimum width of health warnings would be wider than the width of these regular packs.

The issue arose following a written question by Nuno Melo, a member of the European Parliament representing Portugal.

In his preamble, Melo said the measure that the commission proposed in December concerning the manufacture, presentation and sale of tobacco and related products required that 75 percent of the external area of tobacco product packaging should be covered with health warnings, which should be not less than 64 mm in height and 55 mm in width.

“These measures jeopardise the continued production of ‘regular-sized’ packs of tobacco products in the Azores, since the dimensions the commission requires are not compatible with about 50 percent of these factories’ output,” he said. “Two tobacco factories are currently operating in the Azores, employing 133 people directly.”

Melo then asked: “Does the commission agree that this proposal for a directive ignores the fact that the cigarette market in Portugal, and especially the Azores, would be badly affected by the possible disappearance of ‘regular-sized’ packs, unlike the markets in other Member States, where this size pack is hardly ever sold?”

In its answer, the commission said, in part, the proposal to revise the Tobacco Products Directive was underpinned by a thorough analysis of the scientific evidence base for the measures proposed, as well as economic, internal market, social and health impacts. The commission had carried out extensive stakeholder consultations, including with tobacco growers and manufacturers and had carefully considered the concerns expressed.

“The proposal does not ban regular cigarettes in any way,” the commission said. “The proposal foresees a minimum size for the dimension of health warnings to ensure the visibility and effectiveness of the health warnings. Based on the size of a standard cigarette package, which is the predominant package for cigarettes on the EU market, the total maximum surface of the package regulated under the Directive would amount to about 70 percent of the package. Trademarks can continue to be put on the remaining surfaces.”

But the answer did not seem to address specifically the question of ‘regular-sized’ packs and now, another MEP, Nuno Teixeira, has followed up with further questions in which he points out that the size of a regular pack is 69 mm by 54 mm; so the height would leave only 5 mm for trademarks on the front, and the width would not be enough to comply with the minimum requirements.

Teixeira has asked:

  • “Why does the commission not respect Portuguese consumers’ preference for regular size cigarettes?
  • “Does the commission have any evidence to show that cigarettes of this type are more harmful than other, longer cigarettes or other tobacco products?
  • “Is the commission aware that the gradual elimination from the market of this type of cigarette is likely to lead to thousands of workers being laid off in Portugal?”

Category: Breaking News

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