Call for EU ban on flavoured cigarettes

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The animal rights group, the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, said last night it would write to British American Tobacco to demand that the company end live animal tests involving cigarettes. And ministers are to push for a Europe-wide ban on chocolate-flavoured cigarettes after The Independent revealed that Britain's largest tobacco company had tested them on rats.

The Department of Health said it wants to tighten EU laws on cigarettes to ban chocolate and other flavouring additives. Cigarettes tasting of vanilla and liquorice are sold in the UK, but chocolate is banned. Ministers want the rest of Europe to follow British restrictions. In yesterday's Independent, a scientific report showed BAT had tested ingredients including chocolate, maple syrup, tea, wine and spearmint in Canada.

Health ministers also plan to reduce the number of ingredients in British cigarettes. A spokeswoman said: "We will make clear to other EU countries that we want them to come up to our level of regulation."

BAT, whose brands include Rothmans and Lucky Strike, tested cigarettes laced with 482 ingredients, including sherry, cocoa, corn syrup and cherry juice on animals. The paper, written by three BAT scientists for the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology, said the tests were designed to discover the health effects of additives. BAT denied that it was testing their appeal to young people, and said the flavours were added to enhance the taste.

Ann Tradigo, a spokeswoman for BAT, said yesterday: "Ingredients are added only in very, very minuscule quantities, so the harshness of the tobacco is taken away, but you can't taste anything in the cigarettes. We have added ingredients for years and they have been approved by governments around the world, including the UK."

Politicians and anti-smoking campaigners said adding sweet ingredients could entice children to smoke and condemned the practice. A British Medical Association spokeswoman said: "Half of all smokers will die. We are not talking quick easy deaths. Lung cancer can be a long, drawn-out, painful experience. Enticing children to an addiction that will probably kill them is reprehensible. Cigar-ettes are engineered to be as highly addictive as possible and it is time the Government took serious action to tackle this."

Amanda Sandford, research director of the anti-smoking group Ash, said: "What [tobacco companies] are trying to do is make the product more appealing. They can't be seen to market their products at children but if they want to stay in business they have to get children to smoke, because existing smokers are trying to give up."

Four years ago, Chris Davies, Liberal Democrat MEP for the North-west of England, pushed through an EU law restricting the way cigarettes are marketed and sold. He said: "Adding chocolate to cigarettes is very similar to alcopops. We will have to play catch-up and reinforce the principle that there should be no additives that would encourage people to smoke for the first time."

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