After more than a decade of debate and discussion, the EU’s innovative Tobacco Products Directive received its final seal of approval today in Strasbourg – and despite heavy pressure from lobbyists, e-cigarettes will not be afforded separate, less stringent regulation.
It is hoped that the robust new laws will protect the health of millions of young people across Europe.
‘Tobacco is a deadly product,’ MEP Nessa Childers said from Strasbourg, where the voting took place.
‘We should wholeheartedly applaud mechanisms by which smoking becomes less and less appealing to all age groups – but especially to younger people.’
‘I hope this directive will now support Health Minister James Reilly’s efforts to further restrict the sale of cigarettes in Ireland,’ Ms Childers, an independent MEP, added.
‘And I am delighted that alternative, vapour devices will not escape regulation either – that they are being sold so freely now has been a huge concern of mine and many others in this country.’
Pictorial and text health warnings will now have to cover 65 per cent of tobacco packages. Flavoured cigarettes will also be banned, as will specific branding and logos.
Earlier this month, representatives from the tobacco industry attempted to convince the Government at a hearing in Dublin that plain packaging was not required, nor was it legally sound. PJ Carroll, John Player and Japan Tobacco claimed there is no evidence that the likes of the absence of logos or graphic warnings dissuade young people from picking up the habit.
But Ms Childers, a member of the European Parliament’s Environment and Public Health Committee, stressed: ‘This Directive is vitally important. It will save lives in Ireland.
‘It was actually first proposed back in 2001 and it has, at times, been difficult to negotiate through the European Parliament because of pressure and interference from influential tobacco lobbyists. However, it has now finally emerged – and hopefully the next generation will really reap the benefits.’
According to the Department of Health, more than 7,000 people die from smoking-related diseases every year, while providing health care to smokers costs the State €1billion annually.
‘These deaths and the massive cost to healthcare services are entirely preventable,’ Ms Childers added. ‘In fact, tobacco consumption is the largest avoidable health threat across Europe.’
For more information, please contact Gillian Fitzpatrick on 086 8778640