Packets of ten and menthol cigarettes could be banned by EU as they bid to stop youngsters taking up the habitProposals will have to be agreed by all Europe's health ministers
Plans will also ban 'slim' cigarettes and require packs are 75 per cent covered with warnings // E-cigarettes will also have to carry warnings

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UPDATED:

22:18 GMT, 19 December 2012

Packs of ten cigarettes could be banned under a European proposal to crack down on smoking.

The EU’s Health and Consumer Commissioner also unveiled plans to ban menthol cigarettes and to force companies to cover three quarters of their packets with a picture warning.

The idea is to make smoking less attractive to children, who are more likely to buy smaller packets of cigarettes with their pocket money. Youngsters are also more likely to buy flavoured cigarettes such as menthol and strawberry.

Smoking: The EU will not force all cigarettes to be sold in plain packets with graphic health warnings, as is now required in Australia, but individual governments will be free to insist on such packaging if they wish

Smoking: The EU will not force all cigarettes to be sold in plain packets with graphic health warnings, as is now required in Australia, but individual governments will be free to insist on such packaging if they wish

Last night the Department of Health in
London said ministers were considering the proposals, which will have
to be agreed by all Europe’s health ministers before they can go ahead.

The EU wants the new rules to come into force across the continent by 2016.

Under the proposals, packs of less than 20 cigarettes would be banned, as would ‘slim’ cigarettes.

E-cigarettes, which are used by many
people wanting to quit the habit, would also have to carry health
warnings for the first time, because they contain nicotine.

The moves were announced by Maltese EU commissioner Toni Borg to reinforce an existing tobacco products directive.

Negotiations over the controversial
plans have taken place with the tobacco industry and health campaigners
for years, and they target the use in cigarettes, roll-ups and
‘smokeless tobacco products’ flavoured with menthol, vanilla and
strawberry.

Such ‘characterising flavours’ will be banned under the new legislation, if approved by Euro MPs and EU health ministers.

Current pictorial health warnings will
more than double in size and the rules will extend to products not
specifically covered so far, such as ‘electronic’ cigarettes and herbal
smoking products.

Chewing and nasal tobacco will have to have specific labelling and controls on ingredients.

Dr Borg said: ‘The European Commission
had promised a proposal on tobacco products by the end of 2012, and
that’s what I’m presenting today.

Plans: The draft European Commission legislation said the proposal 'foresees that combined warnings (picture plus text) of 75 per cent should be displayed on both sides of the packages of tobacco products'

Plans: The draft European Commission legislation said the proposal 'foresees that combined warnings (picture plus text) of 75 per cent should be displayed on both sides of the packages of tobacco products'

‘The figures speak for themselves:
tobacco kills half of its users and is highly addictive. With 70 per
cent of the smokers starting before the age of 18, the ambition of
today’s proposal is to make tobacco products and smoking less attractive
and thus discourage tobacco initiation among young people.’

He added: ‘Consumers must not be
cheated: tobacco products should look and taste like tobacco products
and this proposal ensures that attractive packaging and flavourings are
not used as a marketing strategy.’

Current rules are now more than a
decade old and outdated, the Commission said. Significant changes have
taken place, such as new scientific evidence on the impact of
flavourings used in tobacco, and clearer statistics about the
effectiveness of health warnings.

Novel products such as electronic
cigarettes have joined the sector, and Brussels is concerned about the
continued use of what it calls ‘attractive’ packaging and flavours.

The new proposed labelling rules would
require a combined picture and text health warning covering 75 per cent
of the front and the back of cigarette packs.

Current information on tar, nicotine
and carbon monoxide – now considered misleading – would be replaced by a
warning on the side of each pack noting that tobacco smoke contains
more than 70 cancer-causing substances.

Choice: Seventy per cent of smokers start to smoke before 18. EU health and consumer commissioner said 'the ambition is to discourage tobacco among young people.'

Choice: Seventy per cent of smokers start to smoke before 18. EU health and consumer commissioner said 'the ambition is to discourage tobacco among young people.'

Newly-developed electronic cigarettes,
used by many smokers as a healthier alternative, would have to carry
health warnings, as they contain nicotine.

If the nicotine content is above a
certain threshold they would not be allowed unless authorised by a
doctor as medicine, like nicotine replacement therapies. Even herbal
cigarettes would have to carry health warnings.

The plans will now be considered by
the European Parliament and EU health ministers, with a target of
adopting the new laws during 2014 and bringing them into force in
2016.

The rules stop short of imposing plain
packaging as has recently been introduced in Australia. But individual E
governments would be free to impose them if they wished.

A spokesman for Hamburg-based
Reemstma, Europe’s biggest cigarette producer and a subsidiary of
Imperial Tobacco, said the draft proposals were in breach of German and
European law.

‘This is plain packaging by the back
door, and by that token it is a deep intrusion into the intellectual
property rights and trademark rights of the manufacturer,’ she said. ‘It
destroys brand values that companies have built up over time.’

Last night, the Department of Health in London said ministers are considering the plan.