Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan

Every year, 2.7 million people in the European Union (EU) are diagnosed with cancer, and 1.3 million die from it. Over 40% of cancer cases are preventable. Without reversing current trends, it could become the leading cause of death in the EU.

The European Commission has presented Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan, considered a key pillar of a strong European Health Union. The Cancer Plan is considered a new approach to cancer prevention, treatment and care, covering the disease pathway, from prevention to quality of life of cancer patients and survivors, aiming at reducing the cancer burden for patients, their families and health systems.

The Cancer Plan will raise awareness and address key risk factors, among which is tobacco smoking. Under the umbrella of “Saving lives through sustainable cancer prevention”, tobacco control is a prominent component of the Plan. Considering tobacco consumption as the leading cause of preventable cancer, with 27% of all cancers attributed to tobacco use, this Plan includes the specific target of “Achieving a tobacco-free Europe”. This entails enforcement of the EU tobacco control framework and its adaptation to new developments and market trends, including stricter rules on novel products.

The European Commission announced that will put forward actions from 2021 to help create a “Tobacco-Free Generation” where less than 5% of the population uses tobacco by 2040, compared to around 25% today. The interim goal is to reach the WHO target of a 30% relative reduction in tobacco use by 2025 as compared to 2010, corresponding to a smoking prevalence of around 20% in the EU. The protection of young people from the harmful effects of tobacco and related products will continue being a priority for the Commission.

The Cancer Plan is meant to improve the implementation of the WHO FCTC among the EU Member States, strengthening existing regulatory instruments such as tobacco taxation, aiming at covering novel tobacco products, and working towards implementing plain packaging and a full ban on flavours. Additionally, by 2023, the Commission will propose to update the Council Recommendation on Smoke-Free Environments both extending its coverage to emerging products, such as e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products, and expanding smoke-free environments, including outdoor spaces.

For more information, please, contact: Ms Anita Hegyi, DG SANTE (email:

For the latest information on tobacco control in the EU, please, see this Party webpage.