In early October, the European Parliament voted to postpone a ban on menthol cigarettes to 2021 and scale down the size of health warnings on cigarette packets. Instead of approving the proposal that health warnings should cover 75 percent of packaging (up from the current requirement that warnings cover 30 percent of the front and 40 percent of the back), the parliament voted that new health warnings should cover 65 percent of cigarette packets.
While this decision was less harsh than expected, the new amendments substantially alter tobacco packaging and make pictorial warnings mandatory in every European Union country.
The potential implications of flavoring and additives are still hotly debated in Europe and around the world, says Will Snell, agricultural economics professor at the University of Kentucky. “This is of particular concern for burley growers in the long term. Various nontobacco ingredients are added in the manufacturing process to offset some of the taste characteristics evolving from incorporating burley in blended cigarettes.”
Snell adds that, presently, it is unclear whether full-flavor burley tobaccos, like U.S. burley, would have any advantage over the lower-quality, filler-style burley tobaccos if a ban were adopted in a particular market. “Besides affecting the overall demand for burley, other regulatory actions to influence manufacturing processes could ultimately impact grower production practices, leading to lower burley yields and profits,” he says.
Despite some short-term optimism that comes from the parliament’s October vote, U.S. burley producers have a multitude of concerning factors limiting expansion and reinvestment in future burley production, Snell says.
Many long-term uncertainties remain, including immigration reform, future crop insurance changes, U.S./global tobacco regulations and the impact of a small but growing market for harm-reduction tobacco products.