TOBACCO firms have hit out after European authorities agreed measures to further regulate tobacco sales under the EU’s Tobacco Products Directive. The firms say the changes will result in increased illicit trading and loss of sales for retailers.
In late December the European Council, which includes the heads of government of member states, gave the go-ahead to a number of new rules including a requirement that graphic picture-led health warnings cover 65% of the front and back of tobacco packs. It also gave EU member states permission to ban branding if they wished.
Packets of 10 cigarettes are expected to be banned by 2016 and a minimum sales weight of 20g will be imposed on roll your own tobacco.
In response to concerns raised by manufacturers about increased ease of counterfeiting using the new labels, the Council said an EU-wide tracking and tracing system would be set up to combat illicit trade of tobacco products.
The directive also bans flavoured tobacco products, though menthol will have a four-year exemption. Member states can now also ban cross-border distance sales of tobacco products.
The directive will be subject to a vote in a plenary session of the European Parliament before it is officially adopted. Member states will have two years to inccorporate the directive into national law.
Jorge da Motta, UK managing director for JTI, said: “The ban on 10s, menthol and smaller pouches of tobacco is a gift for criminal gangs across the UK.
“Banning these products will mean the lowest price will now be the street price sold by criminals who peddle to anyone, including children.
“UK retailers that rely on tobacco to generate footfall and sales will be dismayed at the decision of the EU, which will put more money in the pockets of criminals instead of their tills and puts them at a significant disadvantage with their European counterparts.”
Imperial Tobacco said it was “extremely disappointed at the overall composition of the directive.”
It said: “Display restrictions will be enforced for all retailers in April 2015 and the government recently decided to hold a further review on plain packaging – despite over 500,000 consultation responses against it and no credible evidence from Australia that it has reduced tobacco consumption. The EUPTD announcement represents a triple-whammy for the tobacco supply chain and especially for the independent and distributive channels.
“Good regulation should be effective, proportionate and joined-up. These proposals are not based on credible or scientific evidence; they reject the principles of good regulation.”