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Summaries of EU Legislation

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Preventing smoking

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Preventing smoking


Council recommendation on preventing smoking and on initiatives to improve tobacco control



It urges EU countries to apply a series of legislative and/or other measures to discourage people, particularly the young, from taking up smoking. These include controls on the sale of tobacco and on its advertising and promotion.


  • To prevent tobacco sales to children and adolescents, EU countries are urged to:
    • require people selling tobacco products to verify their customers are not under age;
    • ensure the removal of tobacco products from self-service displays in shops;
    • restrict access to tobacco vending machines to people under age;
    • limit access to distance sales, via the internet for example, to adults;
    • ban the sale of children’s sweets and toys that resemble tobacco products;
    • ban the sale of cigarettes individually or in packets of fewer than 19.
  • To curb tobacco advertising and promotional activities, EU countries are urged to ban the use of:
    • tobacco brand names on non-tobacco products and services;
    • promotional items such as ashtrays, lighters, parasols and tobacco samples;
    • discounts, free gifts, premiums or opportunities to participate in a tobacco-related promotional game or contest;
    • billboards, posters and other forms of indoor and outdoor advertising of tobacco or related products;
    • advertising of tobacco or related products in cinemas;
    • other direct or indirect forms of advertising and sponsorship for tobacco products.
  • EU countries are also urged to:
    • require manufacturers, importers and large-scale traders to inform them of the amount of money they spend on advertising, marketing, sponsorship and promotions;
    • act against the effects of passive smoking in indoor workplaces, enclosed public places and public transport. Priority should be given to educational, health care and children centres;
    • continue to develop anti-smoking strategies, particularly through health education;
    • involve young people in anti-smoking activities;
    • use pricing policy to discourage tobacco consumption;
    • verify the measures in place are being implemented;
    • inform the European Commission every 2 years of the measures they have taken.
  • The Commission is urged to:
    • monitor and assess the measures taken;
    • produce a report within a year of receiving the national information;
    • consider whether any further action is necessary.
  • The Commission has taken various initiatives to promote smoking prevention. These include campaigns, such as ‘Ex-Smokers are Unstoppable’, and phasing out subsidies to tobacco producers.
  • Binding legislation, adopted in 2003 (Directive 2003/33/EC) and replaced in 2014 (Directive 2014/40/EU), sets out EU-wide requirements on the manufacture, presentation and sale of tobacco and similar products, such as electronic cigarettes.
  • In 2009, a further recommendation urged EU countries to step up measures to protect people from passive smoking at work, public places and public transport.


A quarter (26 %) of Europeans smoke. Smoking is the largest single cause of preventable death and disease in the EU with some 700 000 smoking-related deaths every year.

For more information, see Tobacco policy on the European Commission’s website.


Council Recommendation of 2 December 2002 on the prevention of smoking and on initiatives to improve tobacco control (OJ L 22, 25.1.2003, pp. 31-34)


Directive 2003/33/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 May 2003 on the approximation of the laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the Member States relating to the advertising and sponsorship of tobacco products (OJ L 152, 20.6.2003, pp. 16-19).

Subsequent amendments to Directive 2003/33/EC have been incorporated into the basic text. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.

Directive 2014/40/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 3 April 2014 on the approximation of the laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the Member States concerning the manufacture, presentation and sale of tobacco and related products and repealing Directive 2001/37/EC (OJ L 127, 29.4.2014, pp. 1-38). See consolidated version.

Council Recommendation of 30 November 2009 on smoke-free environments(OJ C 296, 5.12.2009, pp. 4-14)

last update 03.05.2016