Following the debacle earlier this year when an EU ban on tobacco advertising was thrown out on procedural grounds by the European Court of Justice [WAMN: 6-Oct-00], the European Parliament yesterday approved a raft of amendments to the original proposal.

These would impose restrictions from 2003 rather than 2006 as originally mooted and include a ban on use of terms such as ‘mild’ and ‘light’. There would be a mandatory reduction in tar levels and an increase in the size and prominence of on-pack health warnings. The rules affect all cigarettes manufactured or sold within the European union, including those intended for export.

Cigarette manufacturers argue that a ban on the terms ‘mild’ and ‘light’ will stifle competition between low-tar brands by cementing brand loyalty. They also maintain that these terms do not refer to health but to taste and lifestyle, pointing out that the trend to low-tar cigarettes was originally started by public-health authorities.

According to a spoke for British American Tobacco the legislation, if enacted, would "affect 85% of the production from the company’s two cigarette plants in the UK". It would lead to the loss of millions of pounds in revenue and 10,000 jobs.

BAT’s concern for EU revenues and jobs was echoed by David Davies, v-p corporate affairs for Philip Morris Europe: “It will result in the export from the EU of jobs and revenues," he said. "We will simply manufacture cigarettes outside of the EU."

But Jules Maaten, the Dutch MEP behind the amendments, was unfazed at the protestations: "Tobacco firms will not be happy with what we have decided," he said. The amended proposals will be debated by EU health ministers meeting in Brussels today.

News source: Wall Street Journal