Tighter controls for tobacco products approved

Tuesday 08 October 2013 18.07
Warnings will now cover 65% of a box of cigarettes
Warnings will now cover 65% of a box of cigarettes

The European Parliament has voted to tighten controls on tobacco products in order to make it harder for young people to start smoking.

However, a significant campaign by the tobacco industry resulted in some measures being either watered-down or rejected.

MEPs in Strasbourg earlier rejected a proposal to re-classify electronic cigarettes as medicinal products, which would have resulted in much tighter regulation.

While they did vote in favour of banning flavoured cigarettes, they wanted a long phase-in period.

In the case of menthol cigarettes, they voted for the ban starting in 2022.

They also voted against proposals to ban slim cigarettes.

MEPs voted in favour of increasing the size of health warnings on tobacco packaging.

The warning will now cover 65% of a box of cigarettes and be at the top rather than the bottom.

MEPs have also voted to make a packet of 20 cigarettes the minimum size that can be sold in the European Union.

Stricter regulations were prioritised during the Irish presidency of the European Council earlier this year.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister for Health James Reilly wrote jointly to MEPs and appealed for the plan to be supported.

However, Irish officials in Brussels have described the lobbying of MEPs as "unprecedented" with countries such as Poland, which has many tobacco-growers, also reportedly lending their support to ensure the measures are watered-down.

Smokers' groups react

Campaigners said consumers will have mixed feelings following the European Parliament vote.

John Mallon, spokesman for the smokers' group Forest Éireann, said: "We welcome the fact that some products have been reprieved while menthol cigarettes have been given a stay of execution.

“But consumers are still angry that the EU, with the support of our own Government, is trying to restrict or ban products they have purchased and enjoyed for many years.”