Menthol cigarettes banned to protect young from habit
A BAN on menthol cigarettes, which pose the same health risks as the traditional type, is on the way under a new EU crackdown.
The menthol cigarettes, which are flavoured with a substance found in mint oil, are due to be banned within the next three-and-a-half years.
And "slim" cigarettes, which are marketed to appeal to female smokers, will be subject to new restrictions.
The clampdown is part of major moves to stop young people in particular from taking up the smoking habit.
The proposals in the Tobacco Directive were announced in Luxembourg at a meeting of EU Health Ministers chaired by Dr James Reilly.
The European Council said it would prohibit "the use of cigarettes and roll-your-own tobacco with characterising flavours, such as fruit, chocolate or menthol, which create additives that increase addictiveness and toxicity".
As well as that, "combined picture and text health warnings are to cover 65pc of the front and back of packages".
Labelling a product as "natural" or "organic" will also be barred, while slim cigarettes will have to be sold in normal cigarette boxes instead of the tall, sleek packaging now used. Dr Reilly predicted the move would help stop thousands of people becoming addicted to cigarettes in the future.
"Smoking is one of the greatest preventable and avoidable causes of early death, estimated at costing €25bn a year.
"We have to take every opportunity we can to make sure more people are not enslaved into this product.
"Today was an important step to letting people know what tobacco products contain and I believe this is a truly important step [in] stopping the next generation ever getting involved," he added.
Electronic cigarettes are not covered by the changes, but Mr Reilly hinted that they could become a target for future legislation. E-cigarettes have been promoted as a safe alternative to smoking but Mr Reilly and EU health commissioner Tonio Borg warned they contained harmful levels of nicotine.
The agreement includes:
* Minimum packet dimensions to ensure greater visibility of health warnings and to rule out the possibility of 'lipstick-style' packs popular among young people.
* Stricter rules for nicotine-containing products.
However, in response, the Retailers Against Smuggling group said: "Banning certain types of legitimate products from Irish shops will just allow smugglers to fill the vacuum."