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Menthol ban part of compromise EU deal on tobacco control

65 per cent of packaging will be covered by warnings as opposed to the 75 per cent advocated by anti-tobacco lobby and the 50 per cent pushed for by those in the industry.

Arguments ahead of the vote.
Arguments ahead of the vote.
Image: Screengrab

Updated 13.52

THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT has voted for a compromise deal that will see health warnings on tobacco products covering 65 per cent of packaging.

The deal is in line with what was advocated by Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Health Minister James Reilly who yesterday wrote a letter to MEP’s urging for warnings not to be watered down to 50 per cent of the front and back.

Today’s vote has also rejected a proposed ban on slim cigarettes. Menthol cigarettes will be banned but the introduction on the ban will be delayed for five years. A decision on reclassifying e-cigarettes as pharmaceutical products will be delayed.

Minister Reilly welcomed today’s vote as a “good day for the children and young people of Europe” saying that MPs had resisted “intense pressure from tobacco industry lobbyist to cut the warnings to just 50 per cent”.

Reilly added that the 65 per cent proposal came as a result of a directive agreed under the Irish presidency of the EU.

Irish MEP Seán Kelly said following the vote that he was pleased with the ban on menthol cigarettes but was disappointed by the transitional period before its adoption. He has said that these cigarettes in particular can be used as a method of enticing younger people into smoking.

Speaking to Karen Coleman from radioep.ie ahead of the vote, Kelly outlined what Irish representatives wanted:

We want a very clear stark warning on the packets showing the dangers of tobacco, we want it at the top of the package, not at the bottom because if it’s at the bottom of the package at the point of sale that can be hidden.

The tobacco industry has been accused of a robust lobbying campaign to influence legislators but Kelly says that the most influential lobbying has come from countries with a financial interest in tobacco:

I feel where the real pressure is coming is from member states that grow tobacco, that would be mainly in the south or other areas with a large production line. They themselves may feel they be victimised at election time if they are not supporting the industry.

Read: Taoiseach calls for no change to tobacco health warnings >

Read: Reilly wants Ireland tobacco-free by 2025 >

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Rónán Duffy

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