From 2016, health warnings will cover 65% of the front and back of cigarette packs sold in Europe and, in 2020, menthol cigarettes will no longer be available on the European market. This is the result of the compromise on the Tobacco Products Directive, endorsed by the Committee of Permanent Representatives (Coreper) on 18 December 2013. Poland, a large producer of menthol cigarettes, is the only delegation that did not back the compromise.
The European Parliament will be asked to approve the text formally in plenary (February or March) and the Council will have to do likewise.
The placing on the market of tobacco products is currently regulated by Directive 2001/37/EC. This text sets maximum levels of tar and nicotine in cigarettes, requires manufacturers to print health warnings on cigarette packs and bans the use of terms like light'. During a final three-way meeting, on 16 December, the negotiators for Parliament, Council and Commission went a step further by regulating the taste and appearance of tobacco products.
The co-legislators set minimum standards for packet presentation while authorising member states to go further. This provision will enable Ireland and the UK to introduce neutral packs, like those used in Australia. Under the minimum standards, combined health warnings must cover 65% of the front and back of packs. The sides will have to contain a message on the dangers of tobacco.
The co-legislators also agreed to prohibit packs of less than 20 cigarettes and to set the weight of a pack of rolling tobacco at 30 grams. The new rules authorise slim cigarettes (in contrast with the Commission's initial proposal).
The taste of tobacco products will also be more strictly regulated. Characterising flavours in most tobacco products will be banned from the end of the transposition period (2016), but a transitional period of another four years (2020) is set for flavoured cigarettes with a volume of sales of more than 3% in the EU (eg menthol cigarettes).
On the question of ingredients, the European Commission will be charged with drawing up a priority list of 15 additives - that can significantly increase the product's toxicity or addictiveness - for which specific analysis will be required.
Lastly, the co-legislators agreed to regulate electronic cigarettes (after considering the possibility of deleting this section from the directive due to diverging views).