Menthol cigarettes, 10-packs and small-weight units of rolling tobacco are to be phased out across Europe, Euro MPs today decided in a key vote on revisions to the EU Tobacco Products Directive.

However, many of the changes agreed will take between two and 10 years to implement. The draft law, which still has to make its way through the lengthy tripartite system, also increases pictorial health warnings (PHWs) to cover 65% of the front and back of packs. It also states that warnings be positioned at the top of packs, with brand names placed underneath.

MEPs also voted in favour of a ban on 10 packs of cigarettes, and on Roll Your Own packs of less than 20g. However they rejected calls for a ban on slim cigarettes. These measures are not likely to be implemented before 24 months from now.

Slim, ‘lipstick-like’ packets however, would also be outlawed, with manufacturers forced to package their slim cigarettes in normal 20-sized boxes or flatter packets which enable the larger PHWs to be fully displayed. Menthol cigarettes, including capsule varieties, will be phased out during the next eight years.

“We need to stop tobacco companies targeting young people with an array of gimmicky products and we need to make sure that cigarette packs carry effective warnings,” rapporteur Linda McAvan, the Labour MEP steering the legislation said.

MEP’s also rejected a European Commission proposal to treat electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) as medicinal products. They believe that e-cigs should be regulated, but not be subject to the same rules as medicinal products “unless they are presented as having curative or preventive properties”.

Those for which no such claims are made should contain no more than 30mg/ml of nicotine, should carry health warnings and should not be sold to anyone under 18 years old.

Manufacturers and importers would also have to supply the competent authorities with a list of all the ingredients that they contain. E-cigs would also be subject to the same advertising restrictions as tobacco products.

There will now be further negotiations between the EU Commission (which proposed the original law) and the national governments, via the Council of Ministers. A second vote is then expected just before Christmas.  

Once the legislation is approved by the Council and Parliament, EU member states will have a further 18 months in which to translate the directive into their national laws, to run from the date when it enters into force. They will then have a further 36 months for the provisions on additives and five years for menthol.

Tobacco products that do not comply with the directive would be allowed to remain on the market for 24 months, and e-cigarettes for 36 months.