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The EU has published its proposal for a new Tobacco Products Directive. The draft proposes sweeping changes that would affect packaging, labelling, ingredients and brand choice of an already highly-regulated and perfectly legal product, whose industry and supply chain employ almost 1.5 million people across Europe. The proposals include attempts to introduce both a standardised pack and product design, through use of 75% health warnings (legislation in the UK currently requires 30% text warning on the front of packs, and 40% picture warning on the back), the introduction of a uniform cigarette size, a ban on selling cigarettes in packs of less than 20 cigarettes or hand rolling tobacco in pouches of less than 40g, and a ban on flavourings such as menthol.
Jaine Chisholm Caunt, Secretary General of the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association commented:
“These proposals fly in the face of common sense, and restrict free trade – something that is even more important for the EU to champion at a time of economic crisis and high unemployment across Europe. Attempts to standardise packaging would create opportunities for criminal gangs to profit and sell illicit tobacco to children, a key concern which led to more than 500,000 people opposing ‘plain packaging’ in the recent UK consultation.
“The prohibition of packs of 10 cigarettes would prevent adults from choosing to manage or reduce their cigarette consumption. The proposed ban on menthol cigarettes and the creation of a uniform size of cigarette is an unjustifiable restriction on the rights of adults who choose to consume a legal product, as well as potentially delivering a body blow to retailers, and businesses throughout the tobacco supply chain.
“These proposals will deliver very little for public health, but would create a huge profit opportunity for criminals and racketeers. Those involved in considering the proposed Directive over the coming months should reflect carefully on the many unintended consequences of these proposals, and ensure that any new regulation is necessary, proportionate and evidence-based.”