Cigarette packaging law upheld by EU court
European Court of Justice rejects challenges taken by members of tobacco industry
The European Court of Justice has upheld an EU law that allows for standardised cigarette packaging and bans the advertising of e-cigarettes. Photograph: Lisi Niesner/Reuters
The European Court of Justice, Europe’s highest court, has upheld an EU law that allows for standardised cigarette packaging and bans the advertising of e-cigarettes.
The directive requires all cigarette packs to have standardised, plain labels, with health warnings covering at least 65 per cent of their packaging.
The rules will also require e-cigarettes to carry health warnings, limit their nicotine levels to 20g and restrict advertising and sponsorship by their makers.
Dr Robert O’Connor, head of research at the Irish Cancer Society, welcomed the judgments on the challenges to the Tobacco Products Directive taken by members of the tobacco industry.
“[The judgments remove] outstanding legal obstacles to the introduction of important public health measures and pave the way for the planned introduction of plain packaging in Ireland this summer.
“Combined with the EU-wide ban on menthol cigarettes, this will have a strong overall impact on attitudes towards smoking and ultimately smoking behaviour,” he said.
The Irish Cancer Society said current smoking rates are 19.5 per cent among the general population and 8 per cent among 10-17-year-olds.
At the time of the smoking ban in 2004 these figures stood at 30 per cent and 15 per cent respectively.
“Taken with public health measures taken in recent years to ban the sale of 10 packs of cigarettes, the ban on smoking in cars, the ban on in-store advertising and introduction of graphic images on tobacco packaging, these will help lower smoking rates and are an important step towards a tobacco-free Ireland by 2025,” he said.
A tobacco-free Ireland would mean a smoking rate of less than five per cent.
Dr O’Connor said the introduction of the directive will improve the safety of e-cigarettes but said the Irish Cancer Society would not recommend them for use as a smoking cessation device until further research is carried out into their long-term health implications.
John Mallon from Forest Ireland, a group which lobbies on behalf of smokers, said the EU and the Government were interfering in people’s lives to an “unacceptable degree”.
“The Tobacco Products Directive treats adults like children. Smokers know the health risks and they have a right to buy and consume tobacco without excessive regulations that are designed to stigmatise both the product and the user and reduce consumer choice,” he said.
“The ban on advertising e-cigarettes plus the restrictions on tanks and e-liquids could seriously undermine this fledgling industry. This could in turn discourage many smokers from switching to a genuine harm reduction product.”
Minister for Health Leo Vardakar said he is pleased that the court’s judgments confirm the validity of the legal provisions of the Tobacco Products Directive.
The Department of Health said it will continue to work on providing for the directive in Irish domestic law and will continue to move towards the introduction of standardised packaging.