Tuesday, October 08 12:06:58
The Taoiseach has pitted himself against intense lobbying by powerful global cigarette manufacturers and called on MEPs to back a plan to restrict access to and the attractiveness of tobacco for young people.
The EU parliament will today vote on a number of measures relating to tobacco restrictions but will also vote on an amendment that would reduce the size of health warnings on cigarette packaging.
Enda Kenny has written to members of the European People's Party, in which fine Gael is also a member, urging them to vote against the amendment.
The EU Tobacco Products Directive calls for mandatory text and picture health warnings covering 75 percent of the front and back of cigarette packs and would ban the sale of specially flavoured cigarettes such as menthol and cinnamon.
The proposed measures were agreed among EU member states in June. The 750-member parliament will hold a vote on October 8 to decide whether to move forward with negotiations on the proposals or allow time for further amendments.
"There is an unprecedentedly intense lobbying campaign from the industry going on inside the European Parliament with the express intention of trying to frustrate this legislation," a senior Irish official said on Friday, briefing journalists on condition of anonymity.
"This is completely on a scale way beyond lobbying that normally goes on."
He said officials had been surprised to discover that cigarette manufacturers and their lobbyists had knowledge of precise elements of the law barely 24 hours after they were agreed behind closed doors.
"The level of lobbying at the moment exceeds any campaign that has gone on in the parliament in recent years," he said.
The aim of the legislation is to combat smoking among the young and cut down on the estimated 700,000 EU citizens who die of tobacco-related causes each year. (Reuters)