Countries in the European Union are regulated under the EU Tobacco Products Directive. This Directive was first created in 2001, and EU policy-makers agreed an updated version in May 2014. Individual member states had an obligation to translate the Directive into national legislation before a deadline of May 2016. In EU countries, only products that follow the new rules will be able to be sold after 19 May 2017.  

The Directive covers many aspects of the way tobacco is produced, packaged and sold. The update introduces many new restrictions, including:

  • Larger pictorial health warnings
  • Minimum pack sizes
  • Restrictions on packaging formats
  • A ban on flavorings, including menthol
  • A requirement for ‘track and trace’ measures
  • New restrictions on e-cigarettes

The updated Directive will not reduce smoking rates, but will have negative consequences for smokers, businesses and the economies of EU countries.

The measures pose a threat to businesses in terms of innovation, competition, consumer choice and cross-border trade. Thousands of businesses including wholesalers, retailers, and packaging suppliers will be affected by the changes.

For example, the Directive now mandates minimum pack sizes for tobacco products – effectively banning smaller products. This means that smokers will be forced to buy tobacco in greater quantities, and fewer –types of packs will need to be produced, which will impact on employment in tobacco production. Larger pack sizes will increase the average price of tobacco in shops, and this could push many smokers towards the illegal trade in black market cigarettes.

It is clear that these new regulations will not help to reduce smoking rates because they are not based on evidence about how smokers buy and use tobacco products.

The process of creating these new regulations was flawed, and often based on political compromise rather than evidence. Objections to elements within the updated Directive were raised multiple times by EU Member States, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and a number of important Parliament committees. However their concerns were ignored, and the regulations were rushed through the political process.

The updated Tobacco Products Directive is the result of hasty negotiations. The regulations were pushed by political agendas, with little consideration given to the effectiveness of the new measures.