The European Commission is looking into the possibility of banning flavours and additives from cigarettes aimed at making them more appealing to smokers.

Speaking at the local launch on an EU anti-smoking campaign, European Commissioner for Health John Dalli said the current review of the existing directive on tobacco was analysing the ingredients in cigarettes on the market to come up with a formula banning flavourings and colours often used to make cigarettes appealing to children.

The review is also looking into extending smoking bans in public across the EU – currently such bans are at the discretion of member states.

Such bans were effective, Mr Dalli said, arguing that at the very basic level they helped undermine the idea of the cigarette as being a social lubricant.

“The fact that you have to interrupt whatever you are doing at an entertainment site and go outside, sometimes in the cold, to smoke a quick cigarette is not very appealing,” Mr Dalli said.

He was speaking at the local launch of the Ex-smokers campaign, an anti-smoking initiative that is targeting young people aged 25 to 34.

Mindful of the statistics, which list tobacco as the single largest cause of avoidable death in the EU, accounting for around 650 000 premature deaths per year and some two million diseases, the Commission has prioritised campaigns against its use.

“It’s the equivalent of a plague wiping out Malta’s entire population in eight months,” Mr Dalli said, explaining the Commission’s focus on smoking. The Commissioner was keen to point out that any measure in the new directive would require the approval of a majority of member states and the European Parliament but was emphatic on the need to combat smoking, given the devastating effect it was having on people’s health and quality of life.

Unlike the shock effect sought by the graphic images being carried on cigarette packets, the campaign’s message is “positive”, emphasising the potential and quality of life lost to smoking.

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