The Council of the European Union has agreed with the Commission that a new Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) should include a ban on menthol cigarettes.
On Friday, the Council agreed a general approach to a revised draft TPD aimed at making tobacco products less attractive by strengthening the rules on how they can be manufactured, presented and sold.
The agreement, which was reached on the basis of a compromise proposal from the Irish presidency, includes:
* A ban on the use of cigarettes and roll-your-own tobacco with characterising flavors such as fruit, chocolate or menthol, and on those products containing additives that increase addictiveness and toxicity. The Council said that this initiative was ‘to make sure that tobacco products taste and smell like tobacco products’.
* An obligation for combined picture and text health warnings to cover 65 per cent of the front and the back of packs of smoking-tobacco products.
* A ban of any misleading labelling (such as ‘natural’ or ‘organic’). [Since misleading labelling would be covered by other regulations; this item presumably bans such descriptors in respect of tobacco – even though they might be factually correct – on the grounds that consumers might misinterpret them as meaning ‘more healthy’.]
* The extension of the scope of the directive to:
+ novel tobacco products (products that are placed on the market after the entry into force of the directive) which would require a prior notification before being placed on the market;
+ nicotine containing products (such as electronic cigarettes); these products would be allowed on the market below a certain nicotine threshold provided they featured health warnings; above this threshold such products would be allowed only if authorised as medicinal products (e.g. nicotine replacement therapies);
+ herbal products for smoking which would have to carry health warnings.
* Introduction of a tracking and tracing system, together with safety features in order to strengthen the fight against the illicit trade and falsified products;
* Member states may decide to ban cross-border distance sales of tobacco products;
* Member states may introduce more stringent rules on additives or on packaging of tobacco products (such as plain-packaging), subject to certain conditions (such as notification to the Commission).
The Council said that its general approach would enable the incoming Lithuanian presidency to engage in discussions with the European Parliament on the TPD.
Meanwhile, the committee for environment, public health and food safety of the European Parliament, the lead committee in respect of the TPD, is expected to vote on the draft amendments in July.