Brussels threat to Belgium

    The Belgian Minister of Public Health Maggie de Block wants to ban menthol tobacco before the EU’s 2020 deadline but is being confronted with European Commission threats to take Belgium to court should it persist, according to a story in the Brussels Times quoting a report in L’Echo.
    In 2014, the EU decided to ban tobacco products delivering distinctive, non-tobacco flavors, though it delayed the imposition of the ban until May 20, 2020, in the case of products with a market share of three percent or more across the EU.
    The directive’s text requires also that the banning of flavored tobacco products ‘should extend over a long period to allow consumers enough time to switch to other products’.
    De Block apparently prepared a draft of a royal decree transposing the European directive into Belgian law, but without taking into consideration the temporary exemption granted to menthol tobacco.
    “Protection of health, especially for young people, justifies the application of this measure at the earliest,’’ said de Block.
    But the Commission sent the Belgian government a warning, threatening to take the matter to the EU Court of Justice should it not change its mind.
    A confrontation seems to be looming. The Belgium cabinet has confirmed its determination to ban menthol before the European 2020 deadline.