09 February 2022
PREVENT, - Tobacco & Smoking

At the end of 2021, the European Commission published a study report on the EU tobacco control regulation, focusing on two key aspects: the advertisement and promotion of tobacco and related products; and the application of smoke-free environments.

The report assesses the level of compliance with the legislation in each of the 27 Member States. Importantly, it compares all tobacco and related products, including traditional tobacco, electronic cigarettes and heated tobacco products (HTPs).

Advertising and promotion: new products are the less compliant with EU law

While Member States have successfully implemented and monitored relevant rules and provisions related to advertising and promotion of tobacco products, there are gaps which remain. These refer mostly to the need to formally extend EU rules to emerging tobacco and smoking products, as compliance with existing rules is considerably higher in conventional tobacco compared to e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products (HTPs).

Addressing new forms of advertising, for example via internet and social media, is another challenge. Despite most countries have bans on online advertising, compliance appears low. It is concerning to see that e-cigarettes and HTPs present the highest amount of non-compliance, given that they mostly target the young population.

Finally, in several countries the existing bans are not accompanied by an appropriate enforcement mechanism in cases of non-compliance, thus undermining the level of implementation and compliance.

Smoke-free environments: a story of half-way implementation

On the issue of smoke-free environments, compliance diverges among countries, with many Member Sates implementing only partial bans even in enclosed spaces such as libraries, hospitals and restaurants/bars. The reason for this seems to be the big differences in the interpretation of indoor spaces, with the hospitality sector strongly opposing 100% smoke-free environments in many countries.

Overall compliance appears to be looser for e-cigarettes and HTPs compared to conventional tobacco, where compliance is much higher.

Furthermore, implementation levels tend to vary a lot also depending on the space. For example, there is a good level of implementation in educational facilities, whereas implementation is poorer in outdoor public spaces or private areas.

Looking towards a smoke-free future

The new EC report has been conducted to inform upcoming discussions within EU tobacco control law, including the revision of the 2014 Tobacco Products Directive and the 2009 Council recommendation on smoke-free environments.

Therefore, its findings are important in two key ways. Firstly, because it shows that Member States still have a long way to go to fully implement the EU tobacco-related rules in these two key aspects of tobacco control. And secondly, because it also sheds light on the shortcomings of the existing European rules, pinpointing gaps (new tobacco and smoking products) where action is needed to have a fully effective legislative framework.

In light of this and other recent studies on the matter (for example the EU scientific opinion on electronic cigarettes), EFA will continue calling for a fresh and bold European framework that puts prevention and the protection of human health as its top priorities, and actively paves the way towards a smoke-free future.

You can find the full study report here, and an executive summary here.