On 31 May, we celebrate World No Tobacco Day by raising awareness about the harmful and deadly effects of smoking and the use of tobacco products. On a global level, the figures are staggering - there are more than 7 million tobacco-associated deaths around the world each year. This is one of the main reasons why the EU and its Member States are active supporters of a global health treaty – the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control of the World Health Organisation.
Tobacco consumption is the single largest avoidable health risk, and the most significant cause of premature death in the EU, responsible for nearly 700,000 deaths annually. This is not just a dry number. These are our family members, friends, colleagues. I am particularly concerned about young people taking up vaping and various new products like heated tobacco products and e-cigarettes, which are increasingly being marketed with misleading claims. 29% of young Europeans aged 15-24 are smoking. How many are using alternatives damaging their young lungs?
The EU is working hard to protect citizens from the hazardous effects of tobacco use. One of our key milestone measures in the EU's fight against illicit trade in tobacco products – the European systems of tobacco traceability and security features – became operational on 20 May. This means that consumers will soon see new traceability markings on the packs, together with the required security features. The traceability markings will enable national authorities to track and trace the movements of tobacco packs across the legal supply chain in the EU. In addition, security features will enable public authorities and citizens to determine if a tobacco product on the market is genuine or illicit.
The tobacco traceability and security features system complements other key EU measures adopted to fight tobacco use, such as regulating tobacco products, restricting cross-border tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, supporting Member States in creating smoke-free environments, and regulating tobacco taxes. In addition, tobacco packs now carry large pictorial health warnings. We have also introduced bans on promotional and misleading elements, a stricter regulation on ingredients including a ban of products with flavours as of 20 May 2020, and a first regulatory framework for e-cigarettes. Some EU countries are going even further, implementing plain packaging measures, and several more are moving in this direction. I am proud to say that we have delivered on all the requirements set out in the Tobacco Products Directive on time, including setting up a product reporting system and an advisory panel on flavours.
Collectively, these measures aim to help smokers quit or not start smoking in the first place. As 93% of smokers take up smoking before turning 26, our particular focus is on preventing youth uptake.
We know that a lifestyle-related risk factor such as smoking is fuelling the rising burden of cancer and cardiovascular diseases. It directly affects the quality of life and life expectancy of citizens, and has a negative impact on national health and social systems, including the future work force.
I therefore count on our Member States to help reach our common goals. We need strong tobacco control at all levels and therefore I put a particular emphasis on strong market surveillance and law enforcement. We also need to respond to new challenges such as novel tobacco products. So let us get to work!
Systems for tobacco traceability and security features overview.
Tobacco Products Directive overview.