cigarette and ashtray

New Directive comes into force

The new EU Tobacco Directive, agreed at EU level in February 2014, became applicable in EU Member States from 20 May 2016. The Directive includes the following key measures:

  • A ban on the placing on the market of cigarettes and roll-your-own tobacco with characterising flavours such as fruit flavours, menthol or vanilla. This is to make sure that tobacco products taste and smell like tobacco products. The ban on mentholated products will apply only four years after the Directive has been transposed by member states. Member states will also have to ban the placing on the market of tobacco products containing additives in quantities that increase in a significant or measurable manner, the toxic or addictive effect, or the carcinogenic, mutagenic or reprotoxic properties. 
  • Combined picture and text health warnings will have to cover 65 % of the front and the back of packages of tobacco products for smoking. In addition, each packet of smoking tobacco must carry a general warning (such as "Smoking kills - quit now") and the information message: "Tobacco smoke contains over 70 substances known to cause cancer".
  • A ban on any misleading labelling (such as "natural" or "organic").
  • Introduction of a tracking and tracing system, together with safety features, in order to strengthen the fight against illicit trade and falsified products.
  • Member states may decide to ban cross-border distance sales of tobacco products.
  • Member states may introduce more stringent rules on additives or on packaging of tobacco products (such as plain-packaging), subject to certain conditions (such as notification of the Commission).
  • The scope of the Directive is extended to electronic cigarettes which will be subject to a number of safeguards (e.g. maximum concentration of nicotine of 20 mg/ml, maximum single use cartridge size of 2 ml). As regards refillable electronic cigarettes, the Commission will have to report on their potential risk to public health at the latest two years after the entry into force of the Directive. If for justified reasons related to a serious risk to human health, at least three member states have banned refillable electronic cigarettes, the Commission is allowed to extend the ban to all member states. Member states may authorise electronic cigarettes under the rules for pharmaceuticals if they meet the provisions of the pharmaceutical legislation. The agreement is aimed at helping smokers to quit, while preventing any incentive for young people to start smoking. 

Background to the new Directive

Following extensive consultation of stakeholders, including a public consultation which generated 85,000 responses, the European Commission adopted its proposal to revise the then Tobacco Products Directive on 19 December 2012.

The proposal was a response to significant scientific, market and international developments in the tobacco industry, which exposed loopholes in the existing tobacco legislation. Tobacco consumption is the cause of almost 700,000 premature deaths in the EU every year, and the proposal focused in particular on combatting the uptake of smoking among young people.

The proposal foresaw major revisions of the then Directive, strengthening rules on how tobacco products can be manufactured, presented and sold, as well as introducing new measures for products that were not specifically regulated so far, such as e-cigarettes and herbal products for smoking.

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