Public Health: EU Tobacco Products Directive is delivering but stronger action is needed

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This article is brought to you in association with the European Commission.


Today, the European Commission published its first report on the Tobacco Products Directive, five years after it became applicable in 2016. Thanks to the Directive, the EU has witnessed steady decreases in smoking rates and tobacco use. However, more efforts are needed. The report points out two main areas where we need to see improvements: enforcement at national level and better consideration of new market developments, such as novel tobacco products.

Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, said: “With Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan we are proposing bold and ambitious actions to reduce the use of tobacco. We have set a very clear objective – to create a tobacco-free generation in Europe, where less than 5% of people use tobacco by 2040. This means enforcing EU tobacco legislation more strictly and helping it keep pace with new developments. EU legislation on tobacco has clearly had a positive impact on smoking rates in the EU, but to meet our target, we must set our sights higher. The upcoming reviewing of the Tobacco Products Directive will be an important part of this work.”

Creating the conditions for a ‘Tobacco-free Generation’

With 27% of all cancers attributed to its use, tobacco is the single largest avoidable health risk in the EU. Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan, a key pillar of the European Health Union aims at creating a ‘Tobacco-free Generation’ by 2040. To reach this highly ambitious goal we need timely mobilisation of the whole available arsenal of tobacco control tools at all levels.

Today’s report is an important step in this direction. It identifies progress made and where there is still room for improvement. It finds that the EU legislation has enhanced tobacco control, contributed to protecting the health of EU citizens by providing Member States with strong rules to address the use of tobacco products in the EU.

The Directive has indeed put in place comprehensive EU tobacco control policy rules, notably through enlarged combined health warnings, a track and trace system, a ban on characterising flavours, the creation of an ingredients database and the regulation of electronic cigarettes. It has also contributed to the improvement of public health through a decrease in tobacco consumption. The report also concludes that, due to market developments, there is scope for improvement in certain essential areas such as labelling, assessment of ingredients, cross-border distance sales and novel and emerging products.

Background

Adopted in 2014, and applicable for most of its provision as of May 2016, the Tobacco Products Directive 2014/40/EU concerns the manufacture, presentation and sale of tobacco and related products and aims at facilitating smooth functioning of the internal market, protecting people’s health – particularly of the youth – and meeting the EU obligations under the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC).

The Report published today is supported among others by a Study on consumer preference and perception of specific categories of tobacco and related products (Perception Study) and a Support Study to the report on the application of Directive 2014/40/EU (both available here). It also draws on SCHEER’s Opinion on electronic cigarettes and the most recent Eurobarometer survey (on attitudes of Europeans towards tobacco and electronic cigarettes).

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