People living in Europe need law-makers capable to withstand narrow interest groups and stand up to protect the health of their constituents. The ENVI Committee has demonstrated it understands this by showing real commitment to tackle the single largest avoidable health risk in the EU.

After today’s vote, the ENVI Committee has endorsed the increase of pictorial warnings covering 75% of the pack (front and the back); a ban on the use of cigarette flavours including menthol; and the removal of slim cigarettes from the market – all features targeting young smokes and in particular girls. The ENVI Committee has also supported the classification of e-cigarettes as medical products but has rejected amendments on plain packaging.

MEPs have set today a solid stepping stone in the journey to better safeguard the health of millions crudely exposed to the marketing tricks of the tobacco industry. Putting it plainly, today is a win for public health.

Tobacco smoking kills 1 in every 2 of its long-term users. The EU has one of the world’s highest proportions of deaths attributed to tobacco use: 16% of all deaths of Europeans age 30 and above are because of tobacco. Tobacco is also one of the leading causes of several types of noncommunicable diseases, like Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).

Now the ball is in the court of the Plenary of the European Parliament, which will vote on the revised TPD endorsed today by the ENVI Committee in September. It is crucial that the Plenary reinforces the public health-friendly approach taken by the ENVI committee. A strong tobacco legislation would be an excellent legacy for MEPs before next year’s elections to the European Parliament.

Following this decisive vote, the EP will have to reach an agreement with the EU Health Ministers. If the approval of the tobacco legislation does not occur by the end of the year, it would put its adoption dangerously close to the European Parliament’s elections next year, putting the hard-fought political process back to square one.

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Last modified on July 12 2013.