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Tobacco directive

Menthol cigarettes could be banned across the EU (but not until 2017)

Health ministers, chaired by James Reilly, have agreed a ban on menthol cigarettes – but won’t ban slim cigarettes for now.

MENTHOL CIGARETTES may be banned throughout the European Union from later this decade, under an accord reached by the EU’s health ministers in Luxembourg today.

The ministers, chaired by Ireland’s James Reilly, agreed that a forthcoming directive on tobacco sales throughout the EU would forbid the sale of menthol cigarettes in each state.

European health commissioner Tonio Borg described the deal forged by Ireland, where member states adopted a common approach to the tobacco directive, as the “jewel in the crown” of its European Council presidency.

He described the debate on the measures as “challenging” – a reference to the efforts of some states, particularly Poland, to safeguard their domestic tobacco industries.

Borg said he expected the new directive to come into effect in “three years, three-and-a-half years’ time” – as the European Parliament would need to approve the measures first, before the directive would be imposed.

After that, he said, member states would be given the usual 18-month period to bring the changes into law in their own countries.

The directive will not include a ban on slim cigarettes, however – with Borg explaining that some ministers felt diverting customers onto slim cigarettes meant they were consuming less tobacco and nicotine than they otherwise might.

“There was a considerable number of member states who were not against the prohibition on advertising of slims, nor were they against the ban on having slim packages, but they were against the banning of slim cigarettes themselves. After all, you are smoking less,” he said.

“This was the compromise reached by member states to start discussions with the European Parliament.”

No ban on e-cigarettes either – for now

The ban will also not affect e-cigarettes, which Reilly has expressed fears about.

The minister said that e-cigarettes were “less toxic” than traditional ones, but added: “less toxic doesn’t mean more safe to me – but I think the jury’s out on that”.

Borg added that there were two different points of view on the consumption of e-cigarettes, as they did not result in passive smoking by others, but that they gave a “false sense of security” to some smokers who perceived them as healthier than traditional tobacco.

He said more research would be undertaken to investigate the negative health effects of e-cigarettes, and suggested that there was little appetite to try and regulate such products without concrete evidence of their use.

Poll: Should Europe ban menthol and slim cigarettes?

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