The European Commission (unelected bureaucrats in Brussels) has proposed sweeping and draconian revisions to the Tobacco Products Directive.

On October 8th 2013 MEPs from across Europe voted to agree with many of the proposals made by the bureaucrats. If they are introduced they will affect tens of millions of consumers throughout Europe, including the United Kingdom.

Since the vote, three groups have started negotiations to determine the final outcome. They are (1) European Parliament, (2) European Commission, and (3) government ministers from the 28 EU member states.

The proposals that are supported by MEPs include:

Ban on menthol cigarettes
From 2022 adults will no longer be able to legally purchase products they may have consumed for many years. To date no member state has banned menthol cigarettes or even considered it. An unregulated black market in menthol cigarettes is likely to explode at the expense of legitimate businesses. It also sets a dangerous precedent for other consumer products.

Ban on ten packs
Two million people in the UK buy their cigarettes in packs of ten. For some this is an economic necessity, for others it’s a desire to limit or reduce their consumption. Banning ten packs is like banning regular sized packets of crisps. Consumers won’t stop buying cigarettes, they will be forced to buy packs of 20 instead which, human nature being what it is, they will be tempted to consume far more quickly.

Ban on pouches of roll your own tobacco under 20g
At a time when governments around the world are trying to reduce the size of some products, including fizzy drinks and confectionery, the EU wants to introduce a policy that could encourage consumers to purchase more, not less, tobacco. Like the proposed ban on ten packs, a ban on smaller roll your own tobacco pouches will hit those seeking to limit or reduce their consumption. It’s also a regressive measure that punishes those on low incomes.

Increase in the size of health warnings
Graphic health warnings are to be increased in size so they cover 65 per cent of the pack, front and back. The warnings must also appear at the top of the pack. There is no evidence that increasing the size of health warnings will have any impact on smoking rates, or the uptake of smoking. The influential EU Committee on Legal Affairs has advised that increasing the size of health warnings fails to conform to the basic rights laid down in the EU charter and is likely to break national and international laws. The Committee recommended that no more than 50 per cent of the pack should feature health warnings. Why won’t EU bureaucrats listen to the opinion of their own legal experts?

Slippery slope
Most of the revisions to the Tobacco Products Directive have been proposed on the basis that they will protect public health, but the European Union is over-reaching itself. We believe it is up to individual member states, not the EU, to decide what policies work best in individual countries. Ten packs, for example, are only sold in the UK and Italy where there is considerable consumer demand for the smaller pack. Why should the rest of the EU dictate what products are available to UK consumers? What next? It may be a cliché but it’s true – this could be the start of a slippery slope that leads to the prohibition of other products that consumers in Britain currently take for granted.

It’s not too late to make a difference. Write to your MP and with your permission we will also forward your letter to the relevant UK government ministers.