Two months from now, the sale of flavoured heated tobacco products will be banned in Romania. Recent legislative changes aimed at aligning the country's laws with those of the European Union extend the prohibition of flavoured tobacco products from cigarettes and roll-your-own tobacco to heated tobacco products. Producers and traders will thus need to review not only their stocks, but also their labelling obligations when placing heated tobacco products on the market.
Given the boom in sales of heated tobacco products in the EU, regulators determined that they must be regulated similarly to cigarettes and roll-your-own tobacco. Certain rules regarding flavours, packaging and labelling applicable to traditional tobacco products have been extended to these heated tobacco products as well. To transpose the EU Directive into Romanian law, the Government recently adopted Ordinance No. 23/2023 amending Romanian Tobacco Law No. 201/2016.
This amendment introduces the term "heated tobacco product" into the national legislation. Defined as a novel tobacco product (placed on the EU market after 19 May 2014), it involves applying heat to produce an emission containing nicotine and other chemicals that the user then inhales. Depending on its characteristics, it is a smokeless tobacco product or a tobacco product for smoking.
What's new for consumers, producers and traders?
As of 23 October 2023, it will be prohibited to place on the Romanian market heated tobacco products that have a characterising flavour or contain flavouring in any of their components such as filters, papers, packages, capsules or any technical features allowing the smell or taste of the tobacco products or their smoke intensity to be modified. Hence, heated tobacco products with any type of "characterising flavour", such as fruits, herbs or menthol, will no longer be allowed in Romania. Previously, this prohibition applied only to cigarettes and roll-your-own tobacco.
Heated tobacco products will also need to comply with mandatory information and warnings requirements on the packaging. Thus, each unit and any outside packaging of heated tobacco products must carry the following general warning in Romanian: "Smoking kills" and the information message: "Tobacco smoke contains over 70 substances known to cause cancer."
In addition, each unit packet and any outside packaging of heated tobacco products for smoking must carry combined health warnings that observe all the requirements under the Romanian Tobacco Law. Among others, they must (i) contain one text warning and the corresponding colour photograph provided in the annexes to the Romanian Tobacco Law, (ii) include information about quitting, namely the telephone number to inform consumers about programmes available to help people who want to quit smoking, and (iii) cover 65 % of both the external front and back surface of the unit packet and any outside packaging.
All producers and importers of heated tobacco products in Romania must notify the Romanian Health Ministry whether the heated tobacco products placed on the local market fall into one of the "heated tobacco" categories, namely smoking tobacco products or smokeless tobacco products. This notice must be filed starting 90 days from the entry into force of the Government Ordinance, i.e. 21 October 2023.
The Romanian Health Ministry is yet to establish by order the form and procedure for such mandatory notifications. With only two months left until the new legislative provisions come into effect, producers and traders should already start reviewing their obligations.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.