EC’s ban on snus in tobacco directive

Ban on snus

A modified Tobacco Products Directive was implemented on December 20 by the European Commission, and declared by new Commissioner Tonio Borg.

Former Health Commissioner John Dalli resigned over a lobbying scandal, among statements that his associate Silvio Zammit proposed to benefit from his contacts to raise an EU ban on snus. Snus continues to be unlawful in accordance with the suggested directive, although the concession enabling} it to be marketed in Sweden remains.

Tobacco products, Dr Borg described, “should look and taste like tobacco” to guarantee that they are less appealing to adolescents who are most likely to start smoking.

While snus is prohibited, no other form oral and nasal tobacco has been established unlawful. But taste – of cigarettes and of smokeless tobacco products – is highly controlled, with a restriction on what are called “characterising flavours.” Additives which hide the harsh taste of tobacco are prohibited, although milder ones may be retained.

As for tobacco products, Dr Borg said that they should not seem like “a candy or a cosmetic product.”

The directive forces warning labels – already implemented in Malta – obligatory, and would have to occupy 75 percent of the front and back of the packaging. Slim cigarettes, considered to be more appealing to certain segments, are as well prohibited.

The possibility to oblige plain packaging for tobacco products had been talked about in the run-up to the directive’s adoption, but it has been unsuccessful to make the cut, although member states are ready to require it in their territory.

The directive’s aim is lengthened to involve electronic cigarettes and herbal cigarettes, which will have to have health warning labels. E-cigarettes which surpass a certain nicotine limit will only be permitted if sanctioned as medicinal products, such as nicotine replacement therapies.

The directive also intends to further manage cross-border distance sales, to guarantee that products are not sold to those under 18, and suggest the establishing of a tracking and tracing system to fight illegal trade.

Dr Borg mentioned that in his hearing at the European Parliament, he agreed to provide the directive by the end of January, and was glad to note that he was six weeks ahead of schedule.

The directive will still require to be implemented by the European Parliament and the European Council – which may themselves change its provisions in the process – and Dr Borg said that it should grow to be EU law before the 2014 European elections. It would then become operational in 2015-16.

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