On Tuesday, October 8, 2013, European lawmakers approved sweeping new regulations governing the multibillion-dollar tobacco market.  The new regulations include more visible and more extensive health warnings on cigarette packs and a ban on menthol in order to further curb smoking. After months of bitter debate and strong lobbying campaigns by members of the tobacco industry, the European Parliament voted in Strasbourg to dismiss the claims by the tobacco industry that the proposed regulations were disproportionate and limited consumer freedom. The lawmakers voted to impose warning labels covering 65 percent of cigarette packs to be shown above the brand logo. Current warning labels cover only 30-40 percent of packages. In addition, the inclusion of gruesome pictorials, for example showing cancer-infested lungs, may also be permitted to cover the cigarette packs.

Before the regulations can enter into force, the legislature still must reach a compromise with the 28 European Union governments on certain points. The new proposed rules were viewed by the World Health Organization and EU health officials as an important milestone.  However, this milestone does not serve as the end of the quest to stop people from smoking and keep teens from ever picking up a cigarette.

Smoking bans in public, limitations on tobacco firms’ advertising, and other measures over the past decade have seen the number of smokers fall from an estimated 40 percent of the EU’s 500 million citizens to 28 percent now. Still, treatment of smoke-related diseases costs about 25 billion euros ($34 billion) a year, and the bloc estimates there are around 700,000 smoking-related deaths per annum across the 28-nation bloc.