EU wants tobacco-free generation as smoking numbers rise worldwide

The European Commission is calling for stricter actions on tobacco regulations in a bid to have a tobacco-free generation in the EU by 2040. However, the global number of smokers continues to grow.

On May 27, the renowned Lancet medical journal published a research on tobacco usage, which gathered data from 204 countries, showing that although the prevalence of smoking has decreased significantly since 1990, population growth has led to a great rise in the total number of smokers worldwide.

“Smoking is a major risk factor that threatens the health of people worldwide, but tobacco control is woefully insufficient in many countries around the world,” warned Emmanuela Gakidou, senior author of Lancet research.

Even though the EU has been seeing a slight decline in smoking prevalence since 2006, the Commission has repeatedly recognised that more efforts are needed.



The EU’s goal to have a ‘Tobacco-free Generation’ by 2040 is set in Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan. Tobacco is known as “the single largest avoidable health risk in the EU”, with  27% of all cancers attributed to its use.

As the EU’s Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides remarked on World No Tobacco Day (31 May), there is a very clear objective “to create a smoke-free generation in Europe, where less than 5% of people use tobacco by 2040.” This would mean a drop of 20 percentage points as around 25% of EU citizens use tobacco now.

“EU legislation on tobacco has clearly had a positive impact on smoking rates in the EU, but to meet our target, we must set our sights higher. The upcoming review of the Tobacco Products Directive will be an important part of this work,” Kyriakides added

On May 20, the European Commission published its first report on the Tobacco Products Directive, which became applicable in 2016.

The Directive put in place enlarged combined health warnings, a track and trace system, a ban on characterising flavours, the creation of an ingredients database and the regulation of electronic cigarettes.