EU court rejects lobby’s claims against new tobacco rules

European Court of Justice rejects all claims against the EU Tobacco Products Directive 

Former health and consumer policy commissioner Tonio Borg had been responsible to roll out the Tobacco Products Directive
Former health and consumer policy commissioner Tonio Borg had been responsible to roll out the Tobacco Products Directive

The European Court of Justice has concluded that the extensive standardisation of packaging, the future EU-wide prohibition on menthol cigarettes and the special rules for electronic cigarettes are lawful, and rejected objections raised by Poland and Romania, Philip Morris and Pillbox38, a maker of e-cigarettes.

Poland, supported by Romania, challenged the prohibition of menthol cigarettes. In two other cases, the High Court of Justice of England and Wales asked whether a number of provisions of the directive on tobacco products were valid.

The ECJ said menthol, by its pleasant flavour, makes tobacco products more attractive to consumers and that reducing the attractiveness of those products may contribute to reducing the prevalence of tobacco use and dependence among new and continuing users.

The Court said that neither raising the age limit solely from which the consumption of tobacco products with a characterising flavour is permitted, nor a health warning on the labelling was reduce the attractiveness of those products.

The ECJ also said that providing that outside packaging for cigarettes carry health warnings covering 65% of the external front and back surface of each unit packet, EU laws did not go beyond the limits of what is appropriate and necessary.

It added that submitting electronic cigarettes to a notification scheme was not inappropriate or manifestly beyond what is necessary to attain the objective pursued by the EU legislature.

The European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) welcomed the ECJ judgement and called for all EU and national institutions to respect the global Framework Convention on Tobacco Control to reduce the damage done by tobacco products worldwide, including 700,000 premature deaths each year in the EU.

EPHA Secretary-General Nina Renshaw said the decision illustrated tactics used by the tobacco lobby to try to intimidate governments not to introduce smoke-free policies and tobacco control measures.

“Today’s ruling is also a timely reminder that the EU and national officials should not meet with tobacco lobbyists, under the UN Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which all governments and the EU have signed. Incredibly, this is still happens, particularly at DG Trade.

“We have seen particularly intense lobbying from the tobacco industry around the TTIP negotiations. But shockingly President Juncker has rejected strong recommendations from the EU Ombudsman slamming the lack of transparency in Commission dealings with tobacco lobbyists. The door must be closed once and for all on the tobacco lobby.”