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05 December 2023
PREVENT, - Tobacco & Smoking

Since May 2022, the Commission has launched the evaluation process of the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) and the Tobacco Advertising Directive (TAD). Entering into force in 2014 and 2003, respectively, these laws constitute the main EU policies on tobacco control, setting legal provisions for the commercialisation and advertisement of tobacco products within the EU aimed at protecting public health.

The current evaluation is part of a broader Commission review of the EU policies related to tobacco and smoking, and the first step towards the framework review, initially foreseen to be in 2024. The initiatives stem from the EU’s flagship initiative the Beating Cancer Plan, which includes the Union commitment to attain a ‘Tobacco-Free Generation’ in the EU by 2040.

New smoking products scape current EU legislation

Tobacco is one of the most serious contemporary epidemics: in the EU and in 2019 alone, tobacco use was responsible for over 907,000 premature deaths and over 22 million Disability-Adjusted Life Years (DALYs). Smoking is the primary cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and it is linked to increased severity of other respiratory diseases, such as asthma.

There is also mounting evidence that the so-called novel products, such as electronic cigarettes and heated tobacco products (HTPs), are also harmful to lung health. They contain toxic and irritant chemicals, they cause increased occurrence of asthma and allergy, as well as a decline in the lung function.

The European Commission is conducting the evaluation to address the emergence and widespread use of these products, which the industry promotes as an alternative to conventional tobacco, even as a less harmful alternative. Novel products represent an increasing market share overall, with a considerable appeal especially among the youth, as the current laws do not limit their marketing strategies, flavoring and packaging as it does with traditional cigarettes.

While the results of the evaluation process were expected to be published in the second quarter of 2023, there are significant delays in this work. Without an evaluation report, the file will not be able to advance as foreseen. 

EFA observes the same lack of progress in other key policies related to smoking, including the adoption of a Council recommendation on smoke-free environments.

EFA patients recommendations for the review of the EU tobacco legislation

Over 2023, EFA has brought the perspectives of allergy, asthma and COPD patients to the evaluation of the EU tobacco framework. Through a series of public consultations, online questionnaires, targeted surveys and interviews, EFA has highlighted the gaps and disharmonies that need to be addressed urgently through updated legislation if Europe wishes to reduce the toll and burden associated with tobacco and smoking.

In summary, EFA recommends the European Commission to take the following steps to update the current legal framework on tobacco: 

  • The 2014 Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) should offer harmonised definitions for certain products, to enhance the enforcement and avoid loopholes. For example, the definition of novel products should be more specific to capture the big variety of emerging products, and include non-tobacco-containing products, such as electronic cigarettes and herbal products. In general, the TPD can be reinforced by introducing definitions to key components of the sector such as for ‘combustion’, ‘cannabis-based products’, ‘dual/multiple users‘ and ‘smoke-free environments’.
  • The current legal framework is not well-equipped to address novel tobacco products. For instance, electronic cigarettes are subject to legal exemptions, such as the prohibition to use flavourings. The ban on characterising flavours applies to conventional tobacco products and became effective for heated tobacco products only in 2022. It is high time that all tobacco and related products are regulated under the same EU commercialisation rules.
  • EFA insists that plain packaging must become mandatory across the EU, in view of the positive effects for public health in the countries who have implemented this measure, and in accordance with the spirit of Article 11 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).
  • Contrary to the industry narrative on ‘reduced risk’ and ‘harm reduction’, scientific studies have shown that the use of novel products such as e-cigarettes actually serves as an initiation to smoking (‘gateway effect’), with users moving on to other types of smoking products soon after. In addition, almost 60% of e-cigarette users and 80% of HTP users end up being dual users.
  • EFA notes the increasing use of waterpipe tobacco/hookah/shisha in Europe, mainly among the youth, as well as the popularisation of shisha and hookah bars as leisure options. Smoking waterpipe tobacco has been shown to cause the same adverse health effects as cigarette smoking.
  • Environmental degradation is another negative effect of smoking. This includes the disposal of cigarette butts in public areas such as beaches or parks; the pollution of soil and water; increased risks of wildfires; and risks to health. Meanwhile, the emergence of e-cigarettes and HTPs creates concerns for the disposal of their single-use plastic parts, as well as their non-degradable metal components (e.g. e-cigarette canisters).
  • The definition of ‘information society services’ in the Tobacco Advertisement Directive (TAD) needs to be revised to include all contemporary communication channels such as social media, the modern promotional and sponsoring actions and artificial intelligence (AI).
  • The TAD must establish a total ban on promotion and advertising in the EU to prevent the re-normalisation of smoking. This is even more urgent as current advertising targets children and young people.
  • The upcoming revision of the EU tobacco legislative framework, promised under the EU Beating Cancer Plan, should be fully aligned with a commitment for 100% smoke-free environments, as passive exposure to second hand smoke (SHS) is a growing concern especially for vulnerable groups such as children, pregnant women and people with chronic respiratory diseases.

EFA calls on the Commission to accelerate work on this crucial issue for public health, showing its dedication to tackle the tobacco epidemic and putting in place effective measures that will ensure a tobacco-free Europe.

You can find EFA’s work on the different European Commission consultations on the evaluation of the EU legislative framework for tobacco control in our website: