Under the new rules, warning signs must take up 65 percent of the packaging, which must also include labelling that will allow to track products from production to the end user. European Union legislators rejected the proposal to list electronic cigarettes as medication and ban slim cigarettes.
"Packs of fewer than 20 cigarettes would be banned. However, MEPs rejected calls for a ban on slim cigarettes. E-cigarettes should be regulated, but not be subject to the same rules as medicinal products unless they are presented as having curative or preventive properties," EP said in a press release.
Lithuanian Minister of Healthcare Vytenis Andriukaitis, who represented the EU Council at the plenary in Strasbourg, said that the new legal act would allow fighting tobacco smuggling.
"The directive allows more efficient efforts against smuggling, as it envisages all instruments from production to sale, tracking, which is not available now," the minister told journalists before Tuesday's ballot.
Social Democratic MEP Zigmantas Balčytis of Lithuania said the vote was a success for the Lithuanian EU Council presidency.
"We should congratulate the Lithuanian presidency that managed to make certain decisions about the Tobacco Directive from the very first reading, while the directive was in a deadlock for many years," Balčytis told BNS after the ballot.
He said lobbyists managed to water down certain restrictions – for instance, the initial proposal was to have 75 percent of the packaging covered with anti-smoking messages, as well as to list electronic cigarettes as medication.
Andriukaitis, the Lithuanian minister, assured that there were no economic arguments against the directive, as it envisaged all the necessary transitional periods and other measures.
"Economic argumentation of the directive is well-weighed, it envisages a transitional period and ways of gradual transition to avoid shock for economies, it also specifies ways of changing jobs and increasing investment in new jobs, therefore, there is no economic argumentation," the minister told Strasbourg journalists.
He has expressed hope that EU institutions will agree on the directive by the end of the Lithuanian presidency: "We should have it done by December."
Under the new rules envisaged in the directive, additives essential to produce tobacco, such as sugar, would be authorized, as would other explicitly listed substances in stated concentrations, but MEPs oppose the use of additives and flavorings in tobacco products that would make the product more attractive.
About 650,000 people die of smoking in the European Union annually, in addition to about 13 million suffering from tobacco-related chronic diseases.