Mixed feelings after the vote on Tobacco Products Directive


The European Parliament (EP) voted on 8 October 2013 to support mandatory pictorial warnings covering 65 percent of both sides of cigarette packs. The Parliament also agreed to ban menthol cigarettes from 2022, to ban cigarette packs of less than 20, to introduce strong tracking and tracing provisions for tobacco products, to prevent illicit trade, and to regulate nicotine containing e-cigarettes as tobacco products

While the Parliament rejected a ban on slim cigarettes, it maintained restrictions on other misleading features of tobacco products and the ability of member states to adopt more stringent measures to regulate tobacco products, such as plain packaging.

This result is not ideal for public health, and is a bittersweet moment for tobacco control. For instance, we did not get graphic warnings covering 75 percent of packs or a ban on slim cigarettes, but we managed to ensure that the Parliament adopts a negotiation mandate, allowing the start of negotiations with member states and the European Commission. We hope that three EU institutions (Commission, Parliament and Council) will reach a compromise on a common text in the coming months. If there is no agreement on a compromise before the European elections in May 2014, there is still no Tobacco Products Directive. Our expectation is, however, that a compromise will be found, but that the proposed measures will be less far reaching than the commission had proposed a year ago.


Luk Joossens, Advocacy Officer, ECL.




Mixed victory for tobacco control in European Parliament’s vote

[Joint press statement issued 08 October 2013]

The European public health and tobacco control community cautiously welcomes the European parliament’s plenary vote today to start negotiations with the Council in view of reaching agreement on a Tobacco Products Directive (TPD). The text adopted in plenary is not perfect, however it does maintain a high level of protection of public health in some areas and advances EU tobacco control in several areas compared to the legislation in force.

The Parliament plenary voted today to support mandatory pictorial warnings covering 65% of both sides and at the top of the pack, the restriction of characterizing flavours without exception (with a temporary derogation for menthol), strong tracking and tracing provisions for tobacco products across the entire supply chain, and strong regulation of novel tobacco products. While the Parliament rejected the ban on slim cigarettes, it maintained restrictions on other misleading features of tobacco products and Member states’ possibility to adopt more stringent measures to regulate tobacco products, such as plain packaging. Also importantly, the Parliament adopted a negotiation mandate allowing the start of negotiations with the Council and the European Commission in view of reaching a compromise before the European elections in May 2014.

The plenary vote on the TPD had been delayed by a month last September following intense lobbying by the tobacco industry. The official explanation that MEPs needed more time to consider the legislative proposal left a bitter taste. As a consequence, this month delay resulted in 35 amendments added to the initial 70, most of which aimed to weaken the Directive further in what can be translated as a victory of the big tobacco lobby.

Today, and despite these attempts at delaying the TPD, the Parliament has fulfilled its commitment to deliver a legislative report on the TPD and to start negotiations with the Council with the aim to reach a compromise and ensure it is adopted by both institutions before the end of the legislature in May 2014.

In the past few weeks, information emerged from internal industry documents about the tactics and arguments used by the tobacco industry and its allies to influence the positions of Member States and hundreds of individual MEPs – or to delay the legislative process in case the attempts at influence failed. The public health community recently sent a letter to EP president Martin Schultz calling for an end to the delay tactics and for greater transparency in the interactions with the tobacco industry.

The result of the vote today shows increased MEP awareness about tobacco industry tactics. NGOs in public health and tobacco control welcome that parliamentarians placed the interest of public health in Europe and that of protecting future generations from being lured by tobacco products above the commercial interests of an industry that manufactures a deadly product.

In the coming months, a negotiation team of the European parliament led by the Rapporteur Linda McAvan will enter negotiations with the Council led by the Lithuanian Presidency and with the European Commission. The goal of these negotiations will be to reach an agreement that should form the basis of a political agreement at EU Council level in December 2013 that could subsequently be approved by Parliament before the end of the year.

The EU health and tobacco control community remains committed to supporting the adoption of a strong TPD before the European elections in 2014 and to further raising awareness among policy makers about the insidious tactics of the tobacco industry to block or weaken EU public health legislation.


"It is a worrying development that the European Parliament has weakened the Commission proposal for a Tobacco Products Directive. The Parliament voted for health warnings to be smaller than the Commission proposal and slim cigarettes have not been forbidden. This is mainly due to the massive lobbying of industry and ECL urges the EU institutions to adopt strict and transparent rules on lobbying by the tobacco industry as requested by the WHO's FCTC. 

The proposal still contains important measures such as placing health warnings at the top and front and back of packs, bans characteristic flavoring such as menthol and implements traceability of tobacco products along the whole supply chain to combat illicit trade. ECL hopes that the Council and the European Parliament will agree on a common text that safeguards these measures."

- Luk Joossens, Tobacco Control Advocacy Officer of the Association of European Cancer Leagues (ECL)
(Click here for the Euronews coverage with Joossens on the occasion of the plenary voting.)

"The strong mandate given to take the next step of negotiations forward is a good signal that despite the intense lobbying, the weakening of the provisions and the failure to ensure the highest level of health protection, the overall strategy of the tobacco industry to delay this Directive has so far failed,"
 -Monika Kosińska, Secretary General of the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA).

"This is a bittersweet moment. Today's vote in the EP plenary was not ideal for public health, but it does advance tobacco regulations in many areas. The overwhelming majority to allow the Rapporteur to start negotiating with the Council on a compromise is a crucial result as it makes it possible to adopt a final Directive before the end of the Parliamentary mandate. That in itself is a victory as it means there is no need for further delays,"
- Florence Berteletti, Director, Smoke Free Partnership

 "We very much regret that the European Parliament did not adopt 75% mandatory warnings. This was a significant element in the European Commission's proposal. But we do welcome the strong mandate given to the rapporteurs to take the negotiations forward. We recommend that all EU Member States follow in the footsteps of Ireland and adopt proposals for plain packaging,"

- Susanne Logstrup, Director, European Heart Network (EHN) 

UPDATE: 18/12/13

Tobacco Products Directive Finally Concludes 

The Association of European Cancer Leagues (ECL ) welcomes the agreement today on new European rules for tobacco products which includes pictorial health warning  covering 65 % of the front and the back of the tobacco packs in 2016, a regulatory framework for electronic cigarettes, a traceability system for  cigarettes and RYO tobacco  in 2019, a ban of menthol cigarettes in 2020 and the possibility for Member States to introduce more stringent measures such as plain packaging.

The agreement has still to be formally adopted by the European Parliament and the Council, but "we are confident that the new directive will be adopted in 2014 and comes into force in the Member States after just two years" said Luk Joossens, Advocacy Officer of ECL, Despite the presence of a whole army of tobacco lobbyists  during the last six years, an important step was taken to improve public health in Europe today.


Previous tobacco control related news:

June 2013

Following the huge success of the Irish Presidency in keeping the Tobacco Products Directive on the political agenda in Europe and the Irish government's declaration to introduce standardised packaging in Ireland, tobacco control advocates have been working with both the Irish and the subsequent Luthianian Presidencies to ensure continuity from one to the next.

At the meeting of the Ministers of Health in Luxembourg on the 21st June, the Irish and Lithuanian Presidencies released the attached statement of appreciation for the work of ECL and other organisations in their support of the Tobacco Products Directive.


Update on the Tobacco Products Directive (as of June 2013)

An agreement was reached by 27 EU Ministers at the Health Council in Luxemburg on 21 June 2013 on the review of the Tobacco Products Directive. The text got the support of 23 Ministers. Only Poland, Czech Republic, Romania and Bulgaria voted against the general approach of the text. The agreement includes new rules on how tobacco products should be labeled, packaged and manufactured. It also targets product ‘attractiveness’, with young people firmly in mind. The agreement will enable to open up final negotiations on the Tobacco Products Directive with the European Parliament, which is expected to vote on the Tobacco products Directive in July in the Public Health Committee and in September in the plenary session.

The text agreed by the Council Ministers is weaker than the initial Commission proposal, but contains the following measures

  • Mandatory combined (picture and text) health warnings covering 65% of all cigarette and roll-your-own tobacco packs;
  • Minimum packet dimensions to ensure greater visibility of health warnings and rule out the possibility of ‘lipstick’-style packs popular amongst young people;
  • A ban on tobacco products with a ‘characterising flavour’ other than tobacco, like fruit or menthol, seen to facilitate smoking uptake by masking the tobacco flavour;
  • Provisions for the setting up of a new EU-wide tracking and tracing system to combat illicit trade;
  • Stricter rules for nicotine-containing products which will require those over a certain level of nicotine to be authorised as pharmaceuticals.

We would still need your support for the vote in the European Parliament, as the pressure remains high. Only in the Public Health Committee of the Parliament, some 1360 amendments have been tabled. The job is not yet finished.

 Luk Joossens

 Advocacy Officer, Tobacco Control ECL



Tobacco products: towards bigger health warnings and ban of strong flavourings

On December 19 2012, after years in the making, the European Commission has adopted its proposal to revise the Tobacco Products Directive. The proposed legislation consists of new and strengthened rules on how tobacco products can be manufactured, presented, and sold. More specifically, it bans the use of cigarettes, roll-your-own tobacco (RYO) and smokeless tobacco products with characterising flavours and makes the use of large pictorial health warnings mandatory on cigarettes and RYO. It regulates cross border internet sale and foresees technical features to combat illicit trade. Moreover, measures are proposed for products that were not specifically regulated so far such as e-cigarettes and herbal products for smoking. Chewing and nasal tobacco will be subject to specific labelling and ingredient regulations. The existing ban for oral tobacco (snus) shall be maintained.

On the occasion of the proposal's adoption, Commissioner in charge of Health & Consumer Policy, Tonio Borg said: "The European Commission had promised a proposal on tobacco products by the end of 2012, and that's what I'm presenting today to Health ministers and the European Parliament. The figures speak for themselves : tobacco kills half of its users and is highly addictive. With 70% of the smokers starting before the age of 18, the ambition of today's proposal is to make tobacco products and smoking less attractive and thus discourage tobacco initiation among young people". He added that "Consumers must not be cheated: tobacco products should look and taste like tobacco products and this proposal ensures that attractive packaging and flavourings are not used as a marketing strategy."


Why a revision of EU law?

The current Tobacco Products Directive (2001/37/EC) dates from 2001. Since then, significant scientific, market and international developments have taken place. For example, new evidence on flavourings used in tobacco products and effectiveness of health warnings has become available. Novel products such as electronic cigarettes have entered the market and recent marketing strategies involve the use of attractive packaging and flavours. At international level, the EU and all of its Member States have ratified the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) which entered into force in February 2005. As a consequence, some of the current provisions of the Directive have become outdated. Member States have also taken different regulatory approaches resulting in a divergence between Member States' laws on the manufacture, presentation and sale of tobacco products.

The new proposal is responding to these developments and to requests from the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers as well as the Commission's own report on the Application of the Tobacco Products Directive of 2007 and 2009, which identified potential areas for improvement.

Main elements of the proposal:

The proposal foresees major revisions of the current Directive. It addresses in particular the following areas:

  • Labelling and Packaging: All cigarette and Roll Your Own packages must contain a combined picture and text health warning covering 75% of the front and the back of the package and must carry no promotional elements. The current information on tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide, which is perceived as misleading, is replaced by an information message on the side of the pack that tobacco smoke contains more than 70 substances causing cancer. Member States remain free to introduce plain packaging in duly justified cases.
  • Ingredients: An electronic reporting format for ingredients and emissions will be introduced. The proposal foresees a prohibition for cigarettes, roll your own tobacco and smokeless tobacco that have characterising flavours and a prohibition of products with increased toxicity and addictiveness.
  • Smokeless tobacco: The ban on oral tobacco products (snus) is maintained, except for Sweden which has an exemption. All smokeless tobacco products must carry health warnings on the main surfaces of the package and products with characterising flavours cannot be sold. Novel tobacco products require prior notification.
  • Extension of the scope of the Directive : Nicotine Containing Products (e.g. electronic cigarettes) below a certain nicotine threshold are allowed on the market, but must feature health warnings; above this threshold such products are only allowed if authorised as medicinal products, like nicotine replacement therapies. Herbal cigarettes will have to carry health warnings.
  • Cross border distance sales: A notification for internet retailers and age verification mechanism are foreseen to ensure that tobacco products are not sold to children and adolescents.
  • Illicit trade: A tracking and tracing system and security features (e.g. holograms) are foreseen to ensure that only products complying with the Directive are sold in the EU.

Process and Timelines

The proposal has been adopted following extensive consultation of stakeholders including a public consultation which generated 85,000 responses. During its preparation, a thorough impact assessment has been carried out, evaluating economic, social and health effects of several policy options under consideration. Several external studies were commissioned during the process.

As a next step, the proposal will be discussed in the European Parliament and in the Council of Ministers. It is expected to be adopted in 2014. It would come into effect from 2015-2016.

Here is the link to the commission press release on the revision of the tobacco products directive:

and  the new commission proposal:

Pictorial health warnings are no more exceptional and exist already  in the legislation of 63 countries.




The Association of European Cancer Leagues calls on European Parliament to vote for a strong Tobacco Products Directive


8 October plenary vote of the European Parliament on the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD)

BREAKING NEWS on Plenary Vote Preliminary Results:

Ban on Menthol - with 8 years transition period to disappear
NO Ban on Slim cigarettes
65% health warning  - we asked for 75%
Minimum size of 20 cigarettes per pack
E-cigarettes shall not be regulated as medicinal product
...And strong measures against illicit trade in tobacco products (article 14) were adopted on traceability and identification features, areas specifically advocated for by ECL's Luk Joossens

WHO welcomes the updating of the European Union (EU) Tobacco Products Directive

Statement by WHO Director-General, Dr Margaret Chan 
7 October 2013


ECL's Tobacco Advocacy Officer interviewed for Euronews article on TPD Vote shown on

7/10/13 (French language)


Most European citizens support stronger tobacco control measures and tobacco remains the major cause of preventable death and disease, causing 700,000 deaths each year in the EU, ECL and our partners in tobacco control and public health call on all MEPs to protect the health of all citizens of the EU.

The TPD is not only one of the last major pieces of EU regulation that will be adopted before next year’s elections to the European Parliament, it also has the potential to protect European populations from the devastating consequence of smoking such as;

  • death
  • cancer
  • heart attacks,
  • respiratory illness and,
  • diabetes.

A vote for a strong Tobacco Products Directive in the plenary of the 8th October could be the first step in the creation of a future free of tobacco-caused death and disease and will protect Europe’s children from taking up the deadly habit of smoking.

We urge MEPs to support a strong Tobacco Products Directive by backing the position of the ENVI committee and giving a mandate to the Rapporteur and shadow Rapporteurs to negotiate with the Council to reach a first reading agreement before the European elections of 2014.

We urge MEPs to place the health of European citizens above the interests of the tobacco industry.




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