New marking on tobacco products filters containing plastic in the European Union

On 17 December 2020 the regulation (EU) 2020/2151 implementing Directive (EU) 2019/904 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the reduction of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment was adopted in the European Union. This regulation establishes the harmonised marking specifications for, inter alia, tobacco products with filters and filters marketed for use in combination with tobacco products, and which contain plastics. It shall apply from 3 July 2021. The marking requirements constitute one of the measures introduced by Directive (EU) 2019/904 for tobacco products filters. Additional requirements regarding extended producer responsibility and awareness raising measures should support the effectiveness of the marking.

The marking must be conspicuous, clearly legible and indelible. To that end, the printed marking shall be placed horizontally (or vertically – whichever fits best) on the external back surface of the unit packet and on the outside packaging of tobacco products with filters. The marking shall not obstruct in any way the visibility of the health warnings required by the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) on these packages – which, for example, in case of tobacco products for smoking cover 65% of the front and back of packages – and, at the same time, shall not be totally or partially covered by other labels or stamps. In order to provide for a smooth transition to the printed version, the marking on the above tobacco products placed on the market before 4 July 2022 may be affixed by means of stickers.

The information text of the marking shall be written in the official language or languages of the Member State(s) where the single-use plastic product is placed on the market.

In addition to the primary ingredient of cigarettes, the non-tobacco elements such as filters, carry a burden on the environment, especially when one considers the vast quantities used in the manufacturing of 6 trillion cigarettes annually. Cigarette butts are the most common form of litter, as an estimated 4.5 trillion cigarette butts are thrown away every year worldwide. The United Nations Development Programme already described tobacco as “A threat to our oceans“. The majority of the nearly 6 trillion cigarettes smoked each year are littered, and the filter on cigarettes is comprised of plastic ingredients which are particularly harmful to beaches and oceans. Even unsmoked filters are toxic to water and life below it. Under specific circumstances (with sunlight and moisture), the cigarette filters may break into smaller plastic pieces containing and eventually leaching out some of the 7000 chemicals contained in a cigarette, many of which are environmentally toxic, and at least 50 are known human carcinogens. The environmental, human and ecological damage of plastic waste materials, especially to marine biology, is well documented. Tobacco control can reduce marine pollution and toxicity, thus improving aquatic life, contributing to reach the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 14 about “Life below water” and, consequently, SDG 3 on “Good Health and Well-being”.

This regulation strengthens the implementation in the EU of Article 11 of the WHO FCTC, on packaging and labelling, including that the textual information appears in the principal language of the country. In parallel, this measure aligns with Article 12, by adopting legislation to successfully communicate to people on the health, social, economic and environmental consequences of tobacco production and consumption of tobacco products. Additionally, under Article 10, the EU Members comply with disclosing to the public information about toxic constituents in tobacco products in a meaningful way. Moreover, the EU is also advancing on the implementation of Article 18 of the WHO FCTC explicitly states that: “In carrying out their obligations under this Convention, the Parties agree to have due regard to the protection of the environment and the health of persons in relation to the environment in respect of tobacco cultivation and manufacture within their respective territories.”

The full title of the Regulation is as follows: Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2020/2151 of 17 December 2020 laying down rules on harmonised marking specifications on single-use plastic products listed in Part D of the Annex to Directive (EU) 2019/904 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the reduction of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment.

The text of regulation (EU) 2020/2151 in English can be accessed through this link, including all the requirements of the marking (Annex III).

The regulation (EU) 2020/2151 in all EU languages can be obtained through this link.

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.