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Tobacco giant’s fear “sleepwalking” in the strict limits on cigarettes

Tobacco companies face a serious threat from the legislation that will be put to the vote in Europe next month to ban the sale of cigarettes in smaller packages, as well as flavored varieties such as menthol.

girls--cigarettes--smoking-woman--cigarette_3259791Japan Tobacco International (JTI), owner of Silk Cut and Benson & Hedges, has estimated that more than 50pcs of cigarette pack sales in the UK will be affected by the proposed legislation to reduce the 700,000 deaths in the EU each year from tobacco-related diseases.

Paul Williams, head of corporate affairs JTI in the UK, has warned that the UK risks “sleepwalking” into a situation where Europe will impose legislation “more serious” than the Government’s plans for plain packaging that have been abandoned last month.

The industry argued that there was no evidence that simple packages will reduce smoking and would potentially create more black-market business.

New rules on the sale of cigarettes – a revised Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) – will be discussed by the European Parliament on September 10 and could begin as early as 2016 if agreement can be reached with the European Council.

European legislators propose to ban the sale of cigarettes in packs of 10, which account for 38pc packs sold in the UK, said JTI. Menthol and “slim” cigarettes also should be prohibited, while tobacco leaf would only be available in large packages of at least 40 grams. Currently 92.2pc leaf tobacco sold in the UK is in a smaller package 25 g and 12.5 g E-cigarettes would also be subject to stricter rules.

Tobacco giants argue the legislation will simply push more smokers to buy on the black market, which already accounts for more then 1/5 of all cigarettes smoked in this country.

The directive would also cost the Treasury £ 800m in lost revenue.

“There’s a huge risk,” said Ronan Batty, EU regulatory affairs manager at British American Tobacco. “Just take a menthol when nearly one million smokers in the UK wake up one morning and they can no longer buy their preferred product in the store, there are huge opportunities out there created for criminals and traffickers to step in and meet the demand that the legal market is no longer can deliver. ”

A representative for Philip Morris International, owner of the Marlboro brand, said the directive “expressly prohibits products that account for about 10pc of the cigarette market the EU, despite the fact that there is no convincing scientific evidence that these products are more harmful than others, or that take from the market will reduce smoking.”

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