The leaders and bureaucrats of the various countries forming the European Union (EU) have, for long, failed to arrive at an agreement to help revive the economy of the EU as a whole. However, when faced with a threat to the safety of their kids, they were quick to arrive at what is being termed as a landmark agreement, which will regulate the manner of production, presentation and packaging of tobacco products in the 27 states that are members of the EU. As is usual with all issues involving the tobacco industry with its powerful lobby in tow, the negotiations proved to be difficult.
The legislation was the last major act of the outgoing president of the Council of the EU, Ireland. Ireland had taken it upon itself to pursue this ruling concerning public health.
At a meeting in Luxembourg, health ministers of the EU member countries, agreed upon a draft legislation aimed at imposing more stringent health warnings about cigarettes, in a combined and unrelenting attempt to control smoking, especially among the youth. The use of cigarettes by adolescents is growing at an alarming rate. As per the European Commission, approximately 70% of smokers begin to smoke before they attain the age of 18 years.
Close to 700,000 Europeans succumb every year to illnesses associated with their use of tobacco products. It is argued by the European Council that more deaths are caused by smoking and the associated cancers, respiratory and other diseases than the mortality resulting from obesity, high cholesterol, drugs, alcohol and high blood pressure.
The preliminary version of the rules mandate that the cigarette packages must display text and graphic warnings showing the dangers associated with the use of tobacco. Such warnings must cover a minimum of 65% of the back and front which is an increase of 20% in the space, presently mandated for text warnings and optional images. The proposal was to cover 75% of the front and back with warning,s which had to be reduced in order to secure a consensus among the members.
The packages also need to clearly state that there are over 70 cancer-causing substances in cigarettes.
The ministers, under the chairmanship of James Reilly, health minister of Ireland also concurred on a prohibition on the sale of cigarettes as well as roll your own tobacco using menthol or fruit flavours as these hold an attraction to young people. It was also resolved to strictly regulate electronic cigarettes containing nicotine and other such products, which are experiencing a tremendous increase in popularity.