New anti-smoking rules were approved by the European Parliament on Wednesday, in an effort to reduce the number of smokers by 2.4 million. The new legislation will include health warning on cigarette packs and mandatory pictures of rotting teeth and cancer-infested lungs.
Some countries in the EU already have health warnings on cigarette packs; however, the new legislation will force all 28 EU countries to include these by 2016. In addition, health warnings will be bigger and more prominent in countries where health warnings are currently found. Cigarette packs will be covered in warnings for 65 percent of the front and back and 50 percent of the sides. The European Parliament hopes these efforts will have an effect on smokers and that more people will choose to quit.
The new legislation will not only have an effect on the cigarette packs. The new anti-smoking rules, approved by the European Parliament, will also introduce stricter regulations for e-cigarettes, advertisement of tobacco products and a complete ban on flavored cigarettes. According to health experts, cigarettes with flavor such as vanilla and chocolate may make smoking seem more attractive than it is in reality for young people. The flavor could also function as a disguise for tobacco flavor. Packs with ten cigarettes will also be banned as these are considered to give potential smokers a low threshold of buying cigarettes. Officials say that the new legislation is a milestone for the 28 countries in the EU and health advocates welcome the legislation with open arms. Others; however, are less pleased with the new rules.
Drago Azinovic, European executive at Philip Morris International Inc., the company that owns tobacco brand Marlboro, says, “It will make the EU economy less competitive and it will fuel the black market of tobacco sales. It will also have an effect on the hundreds of thousands of people who are working in this legal industry. Member state governments will be left with the task of filling up budget gaps.” Apart from the smoking industry, other pro-smoking groups have said that the nanny state mentality in the EU is growing stronger.
EU Health Commissioner Tonio Borg says, “The new tobacco legislation is a testament to the political will to put citizen’s health first.” Over the past decade, the EU has introduced smoking bans in public areas and stricter rules on tobacco advertisements. These efforts have resulted in the number of smokers in the EU to drop from 40 percent to 28 percent. Although officials and health experts are pleased to see this trend, they feel they cannot make enough efforts to reduce this number even more. In the EU, treatment for smoke-related diseases still costs about $34 billion per year and an estimated 700,000 deaths can be linked to smoking.
Before the new legislation can be officially introduced, the EU governments are required to approve the new rules next month; however, the European Parliament states this will be easy. The new legislation is expected to be introduced in May, after which EU Governments will have two years to enforce the new anti-smoking rules in their country. Borg feels excited and says, “Today is a great day for the EU health policy.”
By Diana Herst