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Brussels, 22 May 2007

Questions and answers on Tobacco

What is the "philosophy" behind tobacco control in the EU?

Smoking prevention and tobacco control are a priority for Member States and the European Community. Progress in reducing smoking is still disappointing. The last Eurobarometer on Tobacco reveals that about a third of Europeans are daily smokers.

Commission action includes legislation, cooperation with the Member States, active participation in international tobacco control initiatives (i.e. WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, FCTC); supporting tobacco control networks and projects, and tobacco prevention campaigns. These aim to:

  • prevent uptake of smoking
  • encourage and assist as many smokers as possible to quit
  • eliminate the harmful exposure to tobacco smoke
  • regulate the tobacco products in the market.

In December 2006, the European Court of Justice dismissed the action brought by Germany against the Tobacco Advertising Directive? What is the importance of this ruling?

The ruling of the court means a considerable progress in tobacco control. The Court held that the Directive has a valid legal base and does not compromise the freedom of expression. The judgment confirmed that the EU can legitimately ban cross-border advertising, sponsorship and promotion of tobacco. Following the judgment Germany rapidly transposed the Directive into their national law, as all other Member States had already done before.

During 2006 the Commission opened four infringement proceedings against Member States that had exempted cross-border events (Formula One, motoGP) from the sponsorship ban (Hungary, Czech Republic, Italy and Spain). Following Commission's strong reaction, all these Member States have by now changed their laws to comply with the Directive.

In 2008, the Commission will publish a first report on the implementation of the Directive.

In July 2005, the Commission published its first report on the implementation of the Tobacco Products Directive. What have been the developments since then?

The Report identified the need to collect ingredients data in a harmonised way and to enhance laboratory cooperation. In the autumn 2005, the Commission set up two working groups, which have been working in these areas.

As regards ingredients reporting, two sets of formats have been developed: one with the full ingredient information to national regulators and one for the information to the public.
In the area of laboratory cooperation, a practical guide explains how the confidence intervals given in the ISO method can be interpreted in relation to the maximum limits of tar, nicotine and CO yields set by the Tobacco Products Directive. In addition, the draft practical guide addresses the best examples of the criteria used for the laboratory approval.

In order to get a better understanding of the health effects of various smokeless tobacco products, the Commission has requested an opinion from the SANCO Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks. The opinion is due for public consultation in the second half of 2007.

The Tobacco Products Directive allows Member States to complement the additional textual warnings on cigarette packages with pictorial warnings. Which Member States have introduced the pictures so far?

In May 2005, the Commission adopted a library of 42 colour photographs and other illustrations – three for each of the additional health warnings. This way, Member States can choose the images best suited to their population.

Belgium is the first EU Member States to adopt pictorial warnings on tobacco products. These were introduced in November of last year – and, as from June, will feature on all cigarette packets sold in Belgium. The next country to follow suit will be Romania, where pictorials will become mandatory in July 2008. A number of other Member States consider introducing the warnings in the near future.
The Commission has also concluded copyright agreements with New Zealand and Switzerland, allowing them to use the EU’s images in their own tobacco campaigns

What has been done to promote smoke-free environments?

On 30 January 2007, the Commission adopted a Green Paper "Towards a Europe free from tobacco smoke: policy options at EU level", to launch a broad public consultation on the best way to promote smoke-free environments in the EU. The Green Paper examines the health and economic burdens associated with passive smoking, public support for smoking bans, and the measures taken so far at national and EU level.

The Commission invites the views of other EU Institutions, the Member States and the civil society on the scope of measures to tackle passive smoking and the most appropriate form of EU intervention. The policy options presented for discussion in the Green Paper are: no change from the status quo, voluntary measures, coordination and exchange of best practices between Member States, a Commission or Council Recommendation or binding EU legislation.

What will be the follow-up to the Green Paper?

Stakeholders are invited to submit their comments to the Green Paper until 1 June 2007. The Commission will then analyse the responses and produce a report with the main findings of the consultation, before considering further steps

If justified by the comments received and the developments in Member States a follow-up initiative could be presented in 2008.

What is the public support for smoke-free policies?

According to the results of the special Eurobarometer on Tobacco, smoke-free policies are extremely popular among EU citizens. An overwhelming majority of 88% support smoke-free offices, indoor workplaces and any indoor public space - a slight increase compared to last year's survey.

According to the data, around half of European citizens do not permit smoking in their home and four out of five are aware that second-hand smoke is harmful for health. The survey reveals that almost one in three smokers have tried to give up in the last 12 months. However, over 70% of them have relapsed into the habit in less than two months.

What is being done to prevent youth smoking?

The Commission’s campaign HELP – For a life without tobaccois now in its third tear. HELP is the biggest public health awareness-raising initiative ever organised at EU level. The campaign targets young people as a priority. It addresses the three main themes of tobacco control: prevention, cessation and the dangers of passive smoking through four integrated media: television; press relations; public relation events and Internet.

From the legislative perspective, the Council Recommendation of 2002 encourages the Member States to adopt appropriate measures to prevent tobacco sales to children and adolescents and to strengthening overall health education particularly at schools. It also recommends to make full use of young people 's contributions to youth health-related policies and actions. Many Member States have largely developed these recommendations.

According to the World Bank, tax increases are the single most cost-effective tobacco-control measure. What is the Commission’s policy in this regard?

Price and tax measures are indeed one of the most effective instruments to reduce tobacco consumption. Some studies indicate that a 10% price increase will reduce overall consumption by 4% to 8%. The impact of higher prices is likely to be greatest on young people and lower-income groups.

On 30 March, the European Commission launched an online consultation seeking views from stakeholders on the current EU tax legislation on tobacco and possible changes to the structure and rates of excise duty applied to tobacco products. Comments are invited by 1 June 2007. The Commission will take them into account in its legislative proposal to come at the end of this year.

What is the EU’s contribution to tobacco control at international level?

The Community played a key role in negotiating the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) - the first ever international public health treaty, covering the whole range of tobacco-control related activities. Altogether 168 countries ratified the FCTC, including 25 EU Member States and the European Community.

The FCTC covers a wide range of areas, including measures to reduce the demand for tobacco (such as price and tax measures, protection from exposure to environmental tobacco smoke or restrictions on tobacco advertising) and measures to reduce the supply of tobacco (such as the illicit trade).

The big challenge of the FCTC is to curb the tobacco epidemic at a global level. The EU is playing a leading role in this process, both politically and financially.

What are the main actions planned for the second half of 2007?

The main areas of action for the coming months are smoke-free environments, tobacco taxation and the second report on the implementation of the Tobacco Products Directive. We also envisage to publish a report on the implementation of the Council Recommendation on the prevention of smoking. At international level we will continue work on the FCTC process. The Help campaign will continue.

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