Anti-tobacco laws targeting young smokers have been tightened by Euro MP's today. The intention is to dissuade youngsters from beginning smoking but there are some measures which do not go as far as was hoped.
A European Commission proposal which would have seen e-cigarettes treated as medicinal products was rejected. This will come as a relief to manufacturers as the move would have placed restrictions on sales. There will be a ban on flavoured cigarettes to be implemented by 2022 but with a delay of five years for menthol. Slim cigarettes escape a ban.
It had been hoped that plain packaging would be voted for but instead there will now be health warnings on 65% of each pack not 30% as is currently the case, rather than the 75% which was proposed. Packaging which is designed to look like lipstick or perfume containers will now be banned. Later on this month the UK House of Lords will debate the possibility of introducing standardised packaging for cigarettes. Research shows that the standard sized packets make health warnings stand out much more.
Italy and the UK now join the other EU states in banning packs of ten cigarettes which are popular among young smokers with the minimum pack size now becoming twenty. Small packs of roll-your-own tobacco will not be banned.
Further proposals include a ban on the terms; light, mild and low tar as these are considered misleading.
There have been mixed reactions among MEPs and although the measures have been broadly welcomed, some have accused MEPs of pandering to the powerful tobacco companies by voting for a watered down version of the proposals. There has also been criticism from the pro-tobacco organisation, Forest which maintains that banning products will merely drive them onto an unregulated black market.
E-cigarettes continued to court controversy. Campaigners allege that vaping undermines decades of anti-smoking efforts and could actually encourage children and those who currently don’t smoke to take up the habit which could lead to nicotine addiction and ultimately to smoking tobacco.
It seems that a lack of scientific evidence about the health implications of using e-cigarettes is the reason for the cautious approach to their regulation. Until such time as their effect on public health, harmful or otherwise, can be proven the debate will no doubt continue to rage on.