WITH MENTHOL CIGARETTES to be banned and cigarette packs sold with repulsive images of rotting lungs, the European Union have released new anti-tobacco proposals, the first in over a decade.
“Tobacco kills half of its users and is highly addictive,” said EU Health Commissioner Tonio Borg, himself a former smoker. “We’re not forbidding smoking, we’re aiming to make it less attractive.
Almost 700,000 Europeans die from tobacco-related illnesses each year, equal to the population of Frankfurt or Palermo, and Borg hopes to cut the bloc’s 27 per cent of smokers by two percentage points in five years.
With the habit most often acquired before the age of 25, the proposed legislation particularly targets the young, hence a ban on flavoured cigarettes, roll-your-own, or smokeless tobacco products.
“Tobacco products should look and taste like tobacco products,” said Borg, adding that flavours such as menthol, chocolate or vanilla were often popular with young people.
On packaging, images of camels along with other well-known cigarette logos will be gone in three to four years, the time it will take the 27 EU states and the European parliament to approve the package of new rules.
They will notably force tobacco companies to cover 75 per cent of packets back and front with graphic health warnings and gruesome pictures of diseased body parts.
The size of packs will be standardised and boxes of 10 banned “to ensure the full visibility of pictorial warnings”.
But the proposals fall short of demands by many health campaigners for a total ban on company branding and logos on packets, along the lines of the plain packaging enforced this month in Australia.
Should Australia win an appeal currently at the World Trade Organization against its plain packets, “it will open the way for others to follow suit,” said Borg. The proposals state that “member states remain free to introduce plain packaging in duly justified cases.”
Pipes and cigars however were largely left out of the loop.
“They are on the decline and don’t attract youths,” Borg said.