MEPs and national governments agreed on Monday (16 December) a provisional deal for a new Tobacco Products Directive (TPD). But e-cigarettes continue to divide policy-makers.
The main points of the agreement include warning labels including photos covering 65% of the front and rear packaging, a ban on flavoured cigarettes and more detailed reporting on tobacco products' ingredients.
E-cigarettes will continue to be available on the market and not be restricted to pharmacies. But EU ministers have not resolved the issue of the refilling devices, which they continue discussing in the coming days.
The tobacco directive was originally aimed at discouraging younger people from taking up smoking."
"While the proposed tobacco products legislation could and should have been much more ambitious, we recognise the limits of European policy making and commend those MEPs, ministers and European Commission officials who have worked hard in the face of massive resistance to protect the health of European citizens," said professor Jean-Paul Sculier of the European Respiratory Society.
"For me the key of the new directive and the single most effective measure is that there will be an obligation for combined picture and text health warnings to cover 65% of the front and the back of packages of tobacco products for smoking,” Sculier added.
Karl-Heinz Florenz, in charge of the TPD for the European People's Party (EPP) group, said MEPs had done what people have expected, by tightening up the tobacco law to ensure maximum health protection.
"Tobacco products ought to be as little attractive to young people as possible. The number of young smokers is still unacceptably high. This is why the packaging can no longer serve to promote tobacco products or play down the health risks. The message must be clear: hands off such addictive substances! Health and youth protection must be paramount," Florenz said.
Martin Callanan, from the European Conservatives and Reformists group, called the regulation on e-cigarettes "perverse".
"This is a perverse decision that risks sending more people back to real, more harmful, cigarettes," Callanan said.
"Refillable e-cigarettes would almost certainly be banned, and only the weakest products will be generally available. As many smokers begin on stronger e-cigs and gradually reduce their dosage, making stronger e-cigs harder to come across will encourage smokers to stay on tobacco," he added.