Joint Action on Tobacco Control
Protecting European health through the implementation and harmonisation of European tobacco legislation
Within the framework of the Joint Action on Tobacco Control, European countries joined forces to support the implementation of the Tobacco Product Directive (2014/40/EU) throughout the 28 Member States and contributed to the reduction of tobacco-related morbidity and mortality. The Joint Action was launched in 2017 and ran until 2020. The Hellenic Cancer Society (HCS) coordinated the JATC. RIVM was one of the 30 project partners/institutions.
The general objective of the JATC project was to provide support for the implementation of the Tobacco Products Directive. Smoking and other forms of tobacco consumption are considered the major single cause of preventable morbidity and premature mortality worldwide. Compared to the rest of the world, the World Health Organization’s European Region has one of the highest proportions of deaths attributable to tobacco. Therefore, the JATC also aimed to contribute to reducing tobacco-related morbidity and mortality.
Tobacco industry documents
The work package led by RIVM concerned reports about 15 priority additives provided by tobacco manufacturers. The manufacturers were required to examine for each additive whether it:
- contributes to or increases the toxicity or addictiveness of cigarettes:
- results in a characteristic flavour;
- facilitates inhalation or nicotine uptake.
A panel of independent European experts was appointed to review these reports. The panel concluded that the reports were of insufficient quality and questioned their scientific validity. They recommend that the outcomes and conclusions of the industry reports should therefore not be used by Member States to guide policy.
Menthol facilitates inhalation
The panel also found strong evidence in independent literature indicating that menthol facilitates inhalation. This is an intrinsic property of menthol, which is effective regardless of the presence of a menthol flavour. Since May 2020, tobacco products containing a characterising menthol flavour are prohibited in the EU. However, menthol may still be added in low amounts, which do not lead to a characteristic flavour. Based on their findings, the JATC panel recommends banning the addition of menthol in tobacco products in any amount. As a consequence, various EU countries are currently considering such a ban.
Measuring nicotine in e-liquids
RIVM also participated in a work package aimed to support international collaboration on laboratory work in the EU. Together with partners from Spain and Italy, we developed a method to measure nicotine, glycerol and propylene glycol in e-liquids. The method was subsequently validated via a collaborative study in collaboration with the WHO Tobacco Laboratory Network (TobLabNet). This method was later adopted by the WHO TobLabNet and published on the WHO website.
RIVM staff involved in the JATC were Reinskje Talhout, head of RIVM's WHO Collaborating Centre for Tobacco Control, Lotte van Nierop, Anne Havermans and Wouter Visser (all researchers).