The European Union approved new legislation that would regulate the sale of electronic cigarettes and make tobacco smoking even less attractive.

Tobacco companies are already required to display repulsive graphics of smoker lungs and cadavers on their cigarette packaging. The new law aims to make these images even more prominent, with graphic and text warnings covering 65% of the front and back labels beginning 2016.

Lawmakers are hoping that the bigger health warnings could help reduce the estimated 700,000 tobacco related deaths in Europe every year.

Countries that are contemplating bans on all cigarette branding, such as Britain and Ireland, will be able to enforce generic packaging if they wish.

“Agreement on the tobacco directive is a big step towards a healthier and more prosperous society,” said Vytenis Povilas Andriukaitis, Lithuania health minister and current EU president.

Tobacco companies are questioning the health benefits that the new labeling system would bring.

“Over sizing health warnings to 65 percent with pictures positioned at the top of the pack… will not work, as people already understand the health risks associated with smoking,” Japan Tobacco Inc said in a statement. “Rather, these restrictions will confuse retailers and consumers, making it difficult for them to distinguish brands.”

Anti smoking groups laud the new law, saying it would make it harder for companies to use misleading marketing to attract new customers.

“The tobacco regulation supported today by governments is a victory against the tobacco industry and its intense lobbying,” said Monika Kosinska, secretary general of the European Public Health Alliance.

The new tobacco directive is also the first attempt of the EU to regulate the booming electronic cigarette industry. Analysts have predicted that e cigarette sales could eclipse the $700 billion a year market for tobacco cigarettes in 10 years. All the major tobacco firms Philip Morris owner Altria, Reynolds American, Lorillard, British American Tobacco, and Imperial Tobacco have started adding electronic cigs to their product lines in an effort to offset declining cigarette sales.

Marketed as a “healthier” alternative to smoking, electronic cigarettes generate nicotine vapor without burning tobacco leaves so there is no smoke expelled. Many of the carcinogens and toxic compounds associated with cigarettes come from tobacco smoke. But health officials and legislators are divided on the real benefits of e cigs. Some say e cigarettes are even more dangerous because the specific ingredients in the liquid solution are unknown. Parents also worry that kids are getting hooked because of the attractive flavors, which could lead to long term nicotine addiction.

Governments and the European Parliament have been locked in a dispute over how tightly to regulate the sales and use of electronic cigarettes.

EU diplomats have agreed to treat e cigarettes as consumer products rather than medicines which are more tightly regulated. But governments will be given a free hand in regulating e cigs as medical devices if they choose to.

Refillable e cigarettes will be allowed, but the European Commission could impose an EU wide ban in the future if three or more member states prohibit them on health grounds.

In addition to repackaging cigarettes, the new set of rules will ban all flavored tobacco products beginning 2016. It was agreed that menthol cigarettes could stay on the market until 2020, after some governments demanded a slower phase out.

Flavored cigarettes such as vanilla, fruit and clove are becoming increasingly popular among young smokers. The tobacco directive is expected to be formally approved by EU ministers and the full parliament.

Menthol cigarettes could be banned across the eu (but not until 2017)

Missouri house oks limiting e-cigarettes to adults

MENTHOL CIGARETTES may be banned throughout the European Union from later this decade, under an accord reached by the EU’s health ministers in Luxembourg today.

The ministers, chaired by Ireland’s James Reilly, agreed that a forthcoming directive on tobacco sales throughout the EU would forbid the sale of menthol cigarettes in each state.

European health commissioner Tonio Borg described the deal forged by Ireland, where member states adopted a common approach to the tobacco directive, as the “jewel in the crown” of its European Council presidency.

He described the debate on the measures as “challenging” a reference to the efforts of some states, particularly Poland, to safeguard their domestic tobacco industries.

Borg said he expected the new directive to come into effect in “three years, three and a half years’ time” as the European Parliament would need to approve the measures first, before the directive would be imposed.

After that, he said, member states would be given the usual 18 month period to bring the changes into law in their own countries.

The directive will not include a ban on slim cigarettes, however with Borg explaining that some ministers felt diverting customers onto slim cigarettes meant they were consuming less tobacco and nicotine than they otherwise might.

“There was a considerable number of member states who were not against the prohibition on advertising of slims, nor were they against the ban on having slim packages, but they were against the banning of slim cigarettes themselves. After all, you are smoking less,” he said.

“This was the compromise reached by member states to start discussions with the European Parliament.”

No ban on e cigarettes either for now

The ban will also not affect e cigarettes, which Reilly has expressed fears about.

The minister said that e cigarettes were “less toxic” than traditional ones, but added “less toxic doesn’t mean more safe to me but I think the jury’s out on that”.

Borg added that there were two different points of view on the consumption of e cigarettes, as they did not result in passive smoking by others, but that they gave a “false sense of security” to some smokers who perceived them as healthier than traditional tobacco.

He said more research would be undertaken to investigate the negative health effects of e cigarettes, and suggested that there was little appetite to try and regulate such products without concrete evidence of their use.

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