LONDON Cigarette packs in Europe would have to carry bigger health warnings, and cigarettes with menthol or other flavorings face a total ban, under an agreement that European Union ministers struck on Friday after spirited negotiations.

A small group led by Poland won a reprieve for slim cigarettes, which are popular among female voters in several formerly Communist nations and had also been considered for a ban.

The agreement is not the final decision, as the new tobacco rules require approval by the European Parliament before being put into effect. But the compromise was a milestone because it secured the support of national governments, including some that had fought hard to soften measures opposed by the tobacco industry and some smoker advocacy groups.

The measures reflect a concerted effort by European policy makers to reduce the attractiveness of tobacco to young people in hopes of preventing them from taking up a habit notoriously hard to kick. Cigarettes with menthol and other flavorings are considered easier for novices to smoke.

Under the deal, a health warning combining pictures and text must cover 65 percent of the front and back of all cigarette packs. That represents a reduction from the proposal going into the meeting of a 75 percent minimum, but it is an increase from the current 40 percent figure.

James Reilly, the health minister of Ireland, which holds the European Union s rotating presidency, said at a news conference in Luxembourg that about 700,000 Europeans die every year of tobacco related causes and that smoking is one of the greatest preventable and avoidable threats to health. Packaging that appeals to younger smokers, he said, was tantamount to entrapment of our young people.

The health ministers also agreed on regulation of electronic cigarettes, requiring authorization by relevant agencies in the member states before exceeding a certain nicotine threshold.

Currently, only some of the European Union nations apply such restrictions on electronic cigarettes, which produce vapors from a nicotine liquid rather than burning tobacco. But Tonio Borg, the European commissioner in charge of health and consumer policy, said e cigarettes can give a false sense of security.

The debate over flavored cigarettes mirrors a longstanding discussion in the United States. In 2009, Congress passed a law prohibiting flavorings but exempted menthol after heavy lobbying by the tobacco industry. Although Congress gave the Food and Drug Administration the authority to ban menthol if this was deemed appropriate on health grounds, the F.D.A. has taken no action.

In Europe, a ban on menthol cigarettes would not go into effect for some time. National governments would have up to three years to carry out the rules after the new tobacco law came into force. And the rollout of the new law itself, if finally approved later this year, could take about 18 months, Mr. Borg said.

Slim cigarettes, which were exempted from the compromise on Friday, had been a target because of the fear that they attract young women to smoking.

Though slim cigarettes would still be legal, new packaging and health warning requirements would prevent their sale in the small packs in which they are currently sold. Tobacco should look like tobacco and not like a perfume or a candy, Mr. Borg said. And it should taste like tobacco.

In light of the compromises, antismoking campaigners expressed disappointment that the larger pictorial warnings were not made mandatory on all cigarette packs.

Florence Berteletti Kemp, director of the Smoke Free Partnership, a European organization that promotes tobacco control and research, described the outcome on Friday as disappointing.

Despite the formidable efforts of the Irish presidency, the agreement adopted goes against key measures such as large pictorial warnings, which cost nothing to governments but would better protect millions of European children, she said in a statement. It is outrageous to see so many concessions made to an industry that buys its wealth and influence by marketing a deadly product.

Eu lawmakers ban menthol, target e-cigarettes

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European lawmakers have approved sweeping new regulations to curb smoking, including limits on electronic cigarettes, bigger warnings on cigarette packs and a ban on menthol.

The European Parliament vote in Strasbourg on Tuesday came after months of bitter debate.



The parliament voted to impose warning labels covering 65 percent of cigarette packs, rejecting a measure for blank packaging instead. Legislators also put new limits on advertising for electronic cigarettes, but stopped short of restricting them to therapeutic use voted to ban menthol as of 2022, among other flavorings.

Tobacco lobbyists decry the regulation as disproportionate and limiting consumer freedom. European officials advocate the benefits to public health, saying smoking related diseases cost about 25 billion euros ($34 billion) a year and around 700,000 lives across the 28 nation bloc.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

European lawmakers on Tuesday were set to tighten rules governing the multibillion dollar tobacco market by imposing bigger and bolder warnings on cigarette packs, banning most flavorings like menthol and strengthening regulation of electronic cigarettes.

The European Parliament vote in Strasbourg comes after months of bitter debate. Tobacco lobbyists decry the regulation as disproportionate and limiting consumer freedom, while European officials advocate the benefits to public health.

Under the proposed law, mandatory warnings would take up to 75 percent of tobacco packaging and be more prominent, with the inclusion of gruesome pictorials some for example showing cancer infested lungs to discourage potential customers. It also aims to stop youngsters being swayed into smoking by new, fancy packaging, e cigarettes or cigarettes featuring flavors such as menthol or fruit aromas.

Smoking bans in public, limits on tobacco firms’ advertising and other measures over the past decade have seen the number of smokers fall from an estimated 40 percent of the EU’s 500 million citizens to 28 percent now. Still, treatment of smoke related diseases costs about 25 billion euros ($34 billion) a year, and the EU estimates there are around 700,000 smoking related deaths across the 28 nation bloc.

The issue proved highly divisive in Parliament, and last minute amendments sought to water down the legislation, for instance seeking smaller mandatory warning on cigarette packages.

Ireland’s Prime Minister Enda Kenny on Monday wrote a fervent appeal to lawmakers, urging them to stick to the bigger warning labels since “they are more effective at highlighting the dangers of smoking.”

“Every year, more Europeans die from smoking than from the combined total of car accidents, fires, heroin, cocaine, murder and suicide,” he said.

If a majority of lawmakers backs the legislation, Parliament must still reach a compromise with the EU governments on certain points before the rules can enter into force. Diplomats say a deal could be struck by the end of the year.

However, if lawmakers decide they want more time to evaluate the measures, adoption of new rules would run into procedural hurdles and collide with elections for a new European Parliament in May, likely delaying the legislation until early 2015.

The draft law would also limit the booming sector of e cigarettes by demanding they be sold as therapeutic devices to help smokers kick the habit, rather than as a casual alternative to tobacco. The battery operated products look like real cigarettes and turn nicotine into a vapor inhaled by the user. They are often marketed as a less harmful alternative to tobacco.

The tobacco industry has fiercely lobbied against the new rules, in an effort that officials and diplomats described as an unprecedented campaign to intimidate lawmakers and soften or frustrate the legislation.

The head of the World Health Organization, Margaret Chan, on Monday urged Parliament “to remain steadfast in the midst of these pressures” and to stick to the proposals “to abate the entirely avoidable deaths and diseases brought on by tobacco use.”

“The tobacco industry is, once again, using an arsenal of economic arguments, precisely because such arguments are so effective in shifting the emphasis away from health, especially in times of financial austerity,” she said.

The lobbying was led by Philip Morris International Inc., which owns several brands like Marlboro and called the new legislation “deeply flawed.” The company maintains that, among other things, banning menthol, slim cigarettes or small packages would violate EU rules.

Philip Morris, with $8.5 billion of sales and 12,500 employees in Europe, also claimed the regulation could result in up to 175,000 job losses and lost tax revenues of 5 billion euros per year.