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28/09/2016

EU tobacco directive faces lawsuit

Health & Consumers

EU tobacco directive faces lawsuit

The EU's Tobacco Products Directive leaves national authorities to decide whether refillable e-cigarettes should be considered tobacco products or medicine. [Shutterstock]

The UK’s leading electronic cigarette manufacturer, Totally Wicked, has launched a legal challenge to the EU’s Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) on the grounds that Article 20 of the Directive breaches EU law.

Article 20 within the TPD defines the regulations for e-cigarettes, which will come into force in 2016.

If the TPD is going to be implemented as it currently stands, the e-cigarettes market will be radically altered, with many current e-cigarette devices being removed from the market. Totally Wicked said in a statement that the directive will be a disproportionate impediment to the free movement of goods and the free provision of services in the EU, placing electronic cigarettes at an unjustified competitive disadvantage to tobacco products.

Having considered Totally Wicked’s claim and supporting evidence, the UK’s Secretary of State for Health said it would be appropriate for the issues raised by Totally Wicked to be referred to the European Court of Justice for a ruling.

A hearing will now take place in London on the 6th of October 2014, where an Administrative Court judge will determine whether a reference should be made and if so, the terms of the questions being referred. If the matter is referred to the Court of Justice, it is expected a hearing to take place in 2015, which will determine whether Article 20 breaches EU law.

>> Read: Poland to challenge EU ban on menthol cigarettes

In late July, Poland also appealed to Europe’s top court over the EU ban on flavoured tobacco products, saying it will be unfairly affected as one of the region’s biggest consumers and producers of menthol cigarettes.

Background

The EU approved on 26 February an update of the the 2001 tobacco directive.

>> Read: Parliament rubber-stamps EU's new tobacco directive

The main aim of the new directive is to make tobacco products less attractive to young people.

The legislation will make it mandatory for all cigarette packs to carry picture warnings covering 65% of their surface. E-cigarettes will be regulated, either as medicinal products, if they claim to help smokers to quit, or as tobacco products.

Moreover, the legislation will ban flavourings in cigarettes and roll-your-own tobacco that would make the product more attractive by giving it a 'characterising flavour'. Menthol would be banned from 2020. Flavours would be allowed for water pipe tobacco.

Member states would have to put the provisions on tobacco products into effect within two years of the updated directive's date of entry into force.

Timeline

  • 2020: EU-wide ban on menthol-flavoured cigarettes comes into force under the revised Tobacco Directive

Further Reading