Revision of EU Tobacco Control Directives and the tobacco industry interference

Guest article by Silvia Pelella, Policy and Communications Officer, Smoke Free Partnership

In February 2023, the European Commission launched an Evaluation of the General Framework for Tobacco Control. The submission period ended on May 16, 2023. The revision of two of the major EU Tobacco Control legislations (the Tobacco Products Directive and the Tobacco Advertising Directive) was included in the implementation of Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan (EBCP), one of the priorities of this Commission. The EBCP includes a goal to create a Tobacco-Free Generation in Europe by:

  1. Reducing tobacco use by 30% by 2025  
  2. Achieving a 5% tobacco prevalence level by 2040 

The Tobacco Products Directive (TPD), as adopted in 2014, contributed significantly to reducing tobacco consumption and to improving the functioning of the internal market. However, new market and legislative developments in the EU gave rise to new challenges to the functioning of the internal market and the protection of public health.

The Tobacco Advertising Directive (TAD) entered into force in 2003. A revision would lead to better alignment of EU legislation with the WHO FCTC and the requirements as set out in the Article 13 Guidelines and would allow to enforce legislation on new forms of advertisement.

Key recommendations included in SFP’s submission:

  • Encourage Member States to ban sales and delivery of tobacco products to a person born on or after 1 January 2012 to achieve a tobacco free generation by 2040.
  • Ban tobacco product filters and filters marketed for use with tobacco products.  
  • Strengthen packaging rules by introducing mandatory plain standardised packaging with graphic health warnings covering 80% of the front and the back of all tobacco products and introducing pack inserts.  
  • Include references to Article 5.3 of the WHO FCTC and Article 8 of the WHO FCTC Illicit Trade Protocol.  
  • Ban all flavours in every tobacco product and strengthen the ban by prohibiting flavour accessories, additives.  
  • The EU should stop subsidising tobacco farming through its common agricultural policy (CAP) 
  • The advertising, promotion, and sponsorship (TAPS) ban should include tobacco brand names and corporate promotion.  
  • Encourage Member States to ban the display of tobacco products at points of sale.  
  • Regulate TAPS in entertainment media

Nonetheless, the Tobacco Industry has a long history of delaying and weakening the EU legislative procedures on tobacco control. In particular, the proposal for the revision of the Tobacco Taxation Directive (TTD), which was planned to be released on December 7, 2022, has been delayed. Taxation remains one of the most effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption by preventing the uptake and reducing consumption, reducing health inequalities, and increasing government revenues.

Failing to release and pass the revision of these legislations before the end of this term would undermine the successful achievement of the goal set out in the EBCP. Thus, it is urgent now more than ever to prioritize public health protection over the vested financial interests of tobacco companies.

The Smoke Free Partnership (SFP) is a Coalition of over 50 NGOs working on policy analysis and advocacy to implement the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control at EU level.

Disclaimer: the opinions – including possible policy recommendations – expressed in the article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of EPHA. The mere appearance of the articles on the EPHA website does not mean an endorsement by EPHA. 

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