Magazine article European Social Policy

Tobacco Products : Neutral Packaging: Pending Proposal Fires Up Debate

Magazine article European Social Policy

Tobacco Products : Neutral Packaging: Pending Proposal Fires Up Debate

Article excerpt

The European Commission has promised member states that it will publish its draft of a revision of Directive 2001/37/EC on tobacco products before the end of the year. "November, if all goes well," said the spokesperson for Health Commissioner John Dalli. Nonetheless, the spokesperson admitted that the inter-service consultation had not yet really started.

According to the German press, the Commission is considering - in a leaked draft document without a date - introducing standardised cigarette packets in order to discourage potential smokers. The Commission proposes ensuring that packets contain at least 20 cigarettes and follow a very precise format. The Commission also suggests banning: 1. hidden health warnings and the rounded corners of cigarette packs; 2. slim and coloured cigarettes; 3. cork-coloured filters; 4. additives, such as menthol taste; and 5. advertising on the quality of tobacco (natural, biological, etc). Lastly, one of the options being debated by the Commission is to increase the size of warnings (ie increasing them from the current 40% to 75% for health warnings and 10% for tax stamps) in order to reduce to 10% the space left for advertising.

However, at the moment it is only a draft text, which could be changed at any point. For now, the only certainty is the timing: following a letter - co-signed by several member states - urging him to present his proposal as soon as possible, Commissioner Dalli announced that he was planning to do so before the end of the year. This commitment could have consequences on the content of the debates, given that Ireland, which will be at the head of the Council of the EU from 1 January 2013, is very committed to the fight against tobacco.

ARGUMENTS

This last home stretch has ignited the anger of lobbies. Rumours circulating in the press have particularly inflamed the tobacco industry, which is strongly opposed to the idea of a standardisation of cigarette packs. …

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