Insofar as the new TPD is a compromise, the only issues that will meaningfully affect consumers are the dropping of a proposed ban on 'slim' cigarettes and the exclusion of snus from the ban on 'characterising flavours'. The latter is hugely important since a wide range of snus products require flavourings such as mint and licorice. However, this is only of relevance to the people of Sweden since no one else is allowed to buy the stuff and the Swedish government appears to have accepted this concession as a quid pro quo for dropping its campaign to repeal the scientifically insupportable snus ban (Denmark has held steady on this, however). If the anti-smoking lobby really cared about smokers and their health, they would be furious about the ban staying in place. Instead, they maintain their disgraceful silence.
The only other real change is increasing the size of health warnings on packs to 65 per cent instead of the originally proposed 75 per cent. This is a trivial difference and remains well above the 50 per cent that the EU's own legal commission viewed as acceptable. However, the decision to compromise on this issue, albeit only mildly, suggests that the EU knows that branding is really not that important—in contrast to the hysterical campaigners that the UK has had to endure for the past two years.
Elsewhere, the mentality continues to be 'if it moves, ban it'. This includes banning menthol cigarettes (as reported in the New York Times recently, but barely mentioned in the docile British media).
As for e-cigarettes, things have got even worse...
As concerns grow over the unregulated use of increasingly popular electronic cigarettes, ministers tightened proposed controls by agreeing that those containing 1 milligram (mg) of nicotine or more would be classified as medicinal products requiring prior EU marketing approval.
One milligram is an even lower threshold than was originally proposed and it unquestionably amounts to a de facto ban of e-cigarettes as we know them—with far-reaching implications for the future, as I recently explained in Spiked. It seems that the MHRA decision has toughed the Eurocrats' resolve, as expected. Incidentally—but importantly—it is worth reading this recent Early Day Motion which complained about the pharmaceutical industry's influence over the MHRA. Also see Angela Harbutt's article here.
In sum, the Tobacco Products Directive has been slightly modified—in some cases for the worst—but the so-called compromises amount to putting lipstick on a pig. There is still time for MEPs to see sense, but it is running out.
If you are in London on July 15th, join us at the Institute of Economic Affairs where a panel will be discussing the potential of e-cigarettes, snus and other alternative nicotine products to be free market solutions in health. It's free if you RSVP.