James Reilly hopeful of EU ban on slim cigarettes

The Health Minister says he is hopeful for a wide-ranging ban on slim cigarettes.

EU Health Ministers are meeting in Luxembourg to try and agree a common position on a revised Tobacco Products Directive (TPD). James Reilly wants to see an EU-wide deal on tobacco control.

The European Commission says tobacco is the largest single cause of avoidable death in the European Union. The EU is working to prevent people from taking up smoking, help smokers to quit, protect people from exposure to tobacco smoke and restrict tobacco advertising and marketing.

The Commission says the number of smokers in the EU is around one-third of the population and that the associated health problems include some 695,000 smoking-related deaths each year - the equivalent of three jumbo jets crashing each day.

Almost half of those dying are aged between 35-69.

This week five committees of the European Parliament are giving non-binding opinions on the revision of the TPD.

A study published earlier this month in the British Medical Journal shows that an average employee who smokes costs around ¬ 4,600 more a year than a non-smoker due to time off, smoking breaks and healthcare costs.

Plain-packaged cigarettes have already been spearheaded by Minister Reilly, which are set come into force in 2014.

Speaking in Luxembourg this morning he says this new directive will hopefully move anti-smoking measures forward.

"Well I think we've a wonderful opportunity today to really progress an anti-smoking measure here in Europe" he said.

"There are still some difficulties, some countries are still having some problems - but what I'll be trying to remind people and keep to the fore of their mind is that there's 700,000 Europeans dying from tobacco related illness every year".

"And the longer we leave this unaddressed, I think the more trouble we should have on our conscience" he added.