EU plans tighter controls on tobacco

BMJ 1999; 319 doi: (Published 27 November 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;319:1391
  1. Rory Watson
  1. Brussels

    The European Union is pressing ahead with plans to introduce tighter controls on smoking. Draft legislation presented by the European Commission last week was widely welcomed by EU health ministers.

    If, as is expected, the new limits are adopted by EU governments late next year, they would reduce maximum permissible levels of tar per cigarette from12 mg to 10 mg. This would be accompanied by the introduction for the first time of a limit on the nicotine content in cigarettes of1 mg and on the carbon monoxide content of 10 mg Tobacco companies would have to place clear warnings—in black lettering on a white background surrounded by a black margin—on cigarette packets highlighting the dangers involved. The commission is suggesting that phrases such as “smoking kills” or “smoking can kill” should replace the less alarming advice now given.

    In addition, the new legislation, which would consolidate and revise three existing EU directives, sets out to control the misleading use of descriptions such as “mild” and “low tar” and to oblige cigarette manufacturers to list additives used in their products. Given that 80% of smokers maintain that they would like to give up smoking, the commission has warned that it may consider legislation to ban certain additives in cigarettes if they are considered to be habit forming.

    The public health commissioner, David Byrne, justified the stringent measures: “Smoking kills half a million citizens in the EU each year and is the single, biggest, preventable cause of death.”

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