Among other proposals, the Directive recommends pictorial health warnings that cover 75% of cigarette packs. Whilst it is to be applauded as a great move to champion people’s health above corporative interests, it fails to propose mandatory plain packaging. As a host of preliminary studies made in Australia and other countries show (1), a mandatory scheme in plain packaging would go a long way to deterring young smokers from starting up their smoking habit in the first place. Plain packaging is in everybody’s interest.

“Today Mr Borg kept his word that the release of the revised TPD would be one of his priorities when taking up the Health and Consumer portfolio. This long-delayed revision is a leap towards better health protection of hundreds of millions of people in Europe. I hope this is a watershed moment for the relationship between the Commission and the tobacco industry, and indicates a move towards greater transparency,“ said Monika Kosińska, Secretary General of the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA).

The previous Directive, adopted back in 2001, has been long overdue for a revision to take into account new evidence demonstrating the need to foster better public health in the lethal business (2) of tobacco consumption. The tobacco industry, with its enormous lobby and wealth of false claims (3), will keep putting huge pressures on the EU institutions and Member States in a desperate attempt to shield its profits.

“Today’s release is only the beginning. Now that the revised Tobacco Directive has entered into the co-decision (4) process, the ball is in the European Parliament and the European Council’s court. The current parliamentary term comes to an end in June 2014. If these institutions do not make sure that a people-centred Directive is approved by then, the new Parliament and next College of Commissioners will find themselves back at square one. We are hopeful that there is enough political will to complete the process next year and to go even further than this proposal, joining Australia and other countries in introducing mandatory plain packaging across the EU," said Ms Kosińska.

► Notes to the editors

(1) On December 1 cigarette plain packaging laws came into force in Australia. For a comprehensive evaluation of the various studies on the positive impact of Tobacco Plain Packaging in Australian and Asian markets, visit Tobacco Plain Packaging Bill 2011, Trade Marks Amendment (Tobacco Plain Packaging) Bill 2011, Australia’s House of Representatives.

(2) Tobacco smoking is the major cause of preventable death and disease in developed societies. Over 650.000 Europeans are killed every year because of smoking related diseases, and 13 million more are suffering as a result of their smoking.

(3) Over the last few years, the tobacco industry has been making false claims about the TPD like "smuggling will rise with plain packaging"; "it will be more difficult for retailers to differentiate products"; "this is against property law"; or that "there is no evidence that flavours make tobacco products more attractive".

(4) Co-decision requires consensus to be reached between the Council and the Parliament for legislation to be adopted.

Contact information

Javier Delgado Rivera, EPHA Communications Coordinator, Tel.: +32 2 233 38 76 and j.delgado-rivera@epha.org

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- Clear the smoke in Brussels - ALTER EU Petition to request more transparency
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- EPHA public statement - Break in will not distract EPHA
- EPHA reaction - European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy resigns

Last modified on February 4 2013.