EU to Back Stronger Controls on Weaker Cigarettes
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union health ministers are expected to support tough new controls on cigarettes on Thursday, making health warnings on packets much larger and banning terms such as ``mild'', ``light'' or ``low tar.''
EU diplomats said the proposals from EU Health Commissioner David Byrne also lower the amount of nicotine and tar cigarettes can contain and force manufacturers to publish details of the some 600 additives used in their production.
Under the proposals maximum tar content will be reduced from 12 mg to 10 mg, nicotine cut to 1 mg and strongly worded health warnings will have to cover 25 percent of the packet.
A broad majority of the 15 EU governments supports the plans, but some including Germany may vote against, diplomats said.
Countries such as Germany and Luxembourg, with major manufacturing interests, are concerned the lowered nicotine and tar levels will be extended to exports from the EU from 2003.
Others such as Greece have reservations because they are significant tobacco growers.
The EU trade union representing workers in the tobacco sector, ECF-IUF, said the proposals put some 8,000 jobs at risk. ``Such a measure would simply mean that cigarettes for those countries (outside the EU) would therefore be manufactured elsewhere, resulting in a significant loss of jobs,'' it said. ''The provision is a de facto ban on exports, somehow patronises external markets and goes against all the initiatives to strengthen Europe's competitiveness in world markets.''
If ministers reach a political agreement--and there will have to be a qualified majority in favour under the EU's weighted voting system--the proposals return to the European Parliament for debate and then come back to ministers. It could be early next year before the plans are finally approved.
The parliament, which is involved in the decision-making process under the EU's co-decision rules, held its first reading of the proposals two weeks ago, rejecting calls from some members of parliament for graphic pictures of blackened lungs to be displayed on the front of cigarette packets.