More than 4,000 tobacco retailers from across Europe converged on the European Parliament in Brussels, in a mass demonstration against proposed revisions to the European Tobacco Products Directive last week.
The traffic stopping demonstration allowed retailers to vent their anger and fears over the adoption of certain proposals contained in the revision, such as increasing the size of pictorial health warnings to cover 75% of the front and back of cigarette packs.
This move and others would cause “serious damage” to millions of tobacco retailers, including those in the UK Giovanni Risso, chairman of the European tobacco retailers alliance the Confédération Européenne des Détaillants en Tabac (CEDT) said.
“We encourage the Parliament to show the right sensitiveness for a sector which is essential for the European economy by avoiding measures that are ineffective, dangerous and counter-productive,” he added.
Whitstable retailer and UK Tobacco Retailers Alliance national spokeswoman Debbie Corris welcomed the protest. “These proposals would not reduce levels of smoking - they would just alter where people get their tobacco from. It would move from legitimate retailers to illegal criminals which would blight local communities all across the UK,” she said.
Other proposals include restrictions on certain ingredients and flavourings.
Electronic cigarettes could also be required to display health warnings, and the permitted nicotine content could be restricted.
The EU Parliament and Council of Ministers has until early 2014 to consider the revisions and the plans could come into effect from 2015-2016.
The CEDT said a ban on online tobacco sales, and greater education would be more effective methods of tobacco harm reduction.