The debate surrounding plain packaging for cigarettes has intensified this week after a key event in the European Parliament.
The high-level meeting, which was hosted by three non-governmental organisations, including the Smoke-Free Partnership of which European Respiratory Society (ERS) is a founder member, was attended by 10 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and also made the headlines across Europe, including a front page piece in Le Soir and articles in the British Medical Journal and The Parliament.
Tobacco smoking is a major cause of preventable death and disease in the EU. Campaigners argue that if plain packaging is introduced, it reduces the appeal of smoking among adolescents.
Pressure is now growing on policymakers to follow the lead taken by Australia and legislate for plain packaging. The European Union’s commissioner for public health, John Dalli, has announced his intention to update existing EU legislation on the sale of cigarettes and improve the rules on health warnings and packaging.
The developments have occurred during the same week as three large tobacco companies are being sued in Quebec, Canada for $27 billion.
Two sets of smokers are arguing that Imperial Tobacco, JTI-Macdonald and Rothmans, Benson & Hedges manipulated nicotine levels and hid research on the health effects of smoking. A similar lawsuit in the US led to major tobacco companies paying $246 billion over 25 years for health-care costs.