This survey aimed to examine the practical application of Directive 2014/40/EU and its specific provisions, which strengthened existing rules on how tobacco products are manufactured, produced and presented in the EU, and introduced new rules for certain tobacco-related products. The study will assess the level of implementation of the TPD by exploring both achievements and hindering factors.
Despite progress made, the number of smokers in the EU is still high – 26% of the overall population and 29% of young Europeans aged 15-24 smoke. Rates of smoking among (young) females have not been falling urgently as needed, with an increase in occasional smoking and uptake of novel tobacco products consumption. As 56% of smokers start before the age of 18 and 93% before the age of 25, it is essential to prevent young people from taking up tobacco use. TPD has changed EU tobacco control to a significant extent, but there is room for improvement, notably in the area of plain packaging, novel tobacco products and e-cigarettes and their taxation, in particular for the new generation of smokers (young people, females). The EU has legal competences to ensure a high level of public health in the EU internal market, including placement, presentation, content and pricing of tobacco and novel products. Considering levels of cross border trade in tobacco and related products (and novel products most recently) and diverging national legislation (e.g. on smoke-free public spaces), EU-wide rules protecting consumers’ rights and health are increasingly necessary. Achieving TPD’s objective of ensuring a high level of protection of human health, especially for young people, has been undermined by inconsistencies across the applicable legislative acts exploited by tobacco and related industries, in particular by aggressive commercial tactics for new products and stagnation of price increases. Increases in e-cigarette use are widely predicted as availability and publicity multiply, especially in new users; it is necessary to adequately address novel products through regulation and taxation alongside conventional tobacco products. Given the frequent presentation of such products as a “healthier” or “safer” alternative to traditional tobacco products, we strongly urge caution in their active promotion. Until more evidence for the safety of e-cigarettes is presented through rigorous independent reviews, it is prudent to consider them as a potentially harmful and addictive products, to be regulated and taxed in an equivalent manner to conventional cigarettes. Reducing tobacco use among existing consumers and preventing take up by young people are important objectives towards a tobacco-free Europe. Tobacco cessation services which include qualified clinician-led, -monitored and -evaluated use of novel products have a limited place in such strategies, as do improved health literacy and health education as part of wider health promotion approaches. However, insufficiently regulated open markets in this respect are potentially harmful, not least in perpetuating sustainability of multinational.
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