May 2016: A positive turning point for EU tobacco policy

Source: V.P. (Vytenis) Andriukaitis i, published on Tuesday, May 31 2016.

Message for World No Tobacco Day by Vytenis Andriukaitis, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety.

May marks an exciting turning point for our joint efforts on tobacco control.

On 4 May, the European Court of Justice issued three landmark rulings concluding that our Tobacco Products Directive can withstand any legal challenges raised against it.

The Court found the Directive to be valid, and the standardisation of packaging, ban on menthol cigarettes, and special rules for e-cigarettes to be lawful. This important ruling confirmed, once again, a fundamental principle enshrined in the Treaty whereby a high level of health protection must be taken as the basis for EU law, and that the health of our citizens prevails over the profit that is made from a product that kills people.

And as of 20 May, the Tobacco Products Directive is applicable across the European Union. This is a milestone. This Directive announces a new era for tobacco control in Europe with some of the most ambitious tobacco control measures in the world:

All new tobacco products entering the EU market must now feature large photo warnings.

Tobacco products in attractive packages, slim packs, and flavoured cigarettes must disappear completely by next May.

Electronic cigarettes must now comply with safety standards and feature a health warning.

And the Directive allows Member States to go further and introduce plain packaging too.

All this should discourage young people from taking up smoking and ensure that citizens of all ages across the EU are fully aware of the harmful effects of tobacco use.

I heartily congratulate the countries that have already transposed this important directive into national law, and encourage an effective enforcement of the new rules in all Member States without delay.

And, finally, today - 31 May - we celebrate World No Tobacco Day which this year focuses on plain packaging.

Also during May, several Member States declared their intention to go even further than the directive and introduce plain packaging. To date, a total of five EU countries have declared this ambition. In the United Kingdom, mandatory plain packaging actually entered into law on 20 May after the national high court rejected an attempt by the tobacco industry to prevent it from going through.

There have also been very positive developments in other European countries over recent years, including complete bans on smoking in enclosed public places, bans on smoking in cars with children and the introduction of high taxes on tobacco products so that young people are discouraged from buying them. Ireland, for example, recently announced their "Tobacco Free Ireland" initiative with its aim to move towards a tobacco free society by 2025.

I am very pleased to have so many EU success stories to highlight on this year's World No Tobacco Day. The ambitious steps that I have outlined above have been game-changers for tobacco control policy in the EU, and I am fully committed to building on this powerful drive towards greater public health protection in the EU.

I hope that eventually from No Tobacco Day we become No Tobacco Month, then Year and until finally Europe is tobacco free.

For more information:

10 key changes for tobacco products sold in the EU:


EU tobacco products: