The European Commission is set to widen the scope of cigarette-trading rules to cover potentially harmful electronic cigarettes, flavourings and even marketing strategies, as part of a wider campaign launched yesterday (16 June) to urge Europeans to quit.
The campaign is centred around a new online tool, called 'iCoach', a free-access digital platform which is to be first targeted at smoking EU officials in an effort to get them to lead by example on the issue.
Available in all EU languages, the iCoach contains a number of different stages designed to offer smokers – including those who have no intention of giving up and those in danger of relapse – practical advice on how to overcome nicotine addiction.
It forms the central part of the new campaign called 'Ex-Smokers are Unstoppable' launched by Health Commissioner John Dalli yesterday, which is principally targeting smokers aged between 25 and 34.
At the launch, Dalli told EURACTIV that he was considering further legislative proposals to be announced next year as the campaign progresses.
Electronic cigarettes: harmful?
He said existing legislation could be broadened to cover potentially harmful non-tobacco products – such as electronic cigarettes – aroma-sweetening flavourings added to tobacco, advertising, packaging, and the way tobacco is marketed in shops.
The three-year campaign has been budgeted at €16 million for the first year and is designed to accentuate the positive benefits of quitting smoking, highlighting how doing so can bring financial, social and health benefits.
Designed to use ex-smokers as role models to advertise the benefits of quitting, the campaign will particularly target women and lower socio-economic groups.
Officials should lead by example
Launching the campaign, Dalli, a former smoker himself, said: "Young people start smoking because they are led to think it is cool; they continue smoking because tobacco is addictive; and over 650,000 people die out of smoking in the EU every year because tobacco is highly toxic. Public authorities have a role to play in helping citizens break this cycle of addiction and avoidable death and illness."
In addition to the iCoach, the campaign will also use mixed media in order to boost its profile. A series of newspaper advertisements is running today across a variety of member states.
Both Dalli and the director-general of the Commission's health department, Paola Testori Coggi, said that they expected those working in the institutions to sign up, in order to lead by example. Testori Coggi said: "I will ask all my officials who smoke to register [on the iCoach], and I hope this will stand as an example that the other [DGs] will follow."