An incoming ban on menthol cigarettes could be scrapped on account of Britain leaving the European Union, it has been signaled.
A phased ban on the flavoured cigarettes is currently due to come in 2020 thanks to the European Commission’s latest Tobacco Products Directive.
Britain is currently planning to go further than these EU rules and also introduce plain packaging for cigarettes.
Asked about whether the ban on menthols would survive Brexit, a spokesperson for the Department for Health told The Sun newspaper: “This is one of the many areas that the Government will want to consider carefully as part of the process of leaving the EU.”
An unnamed source also told the newspaper that the latest tranche of tobacco control regulations was set to be reviewed by the Government upon Brexit.
The Brexit process is however unlikely to be complete by 2020, with suggestions Article 50 may only be triggered in that year. If this is the case, the rules will already be in place by the time Britain leaves the EU.
The restrictions on menthol cigarettes were prosed because of evidence suggesting they make it easier to start smoking and are popular with young people.
Mounting research also suggests menthol cigarette smokers suffer worse respiratory problems than smokers of unflavoured cigarettes – possibly because they inhale more deeply.
Health campaigners reacted angrily to suggestions the ban could be ditched.
Deborah Arnott, chief executive of anti-smoking campaign group ASH, told the Independent, that the ban was a good idea regardless of whether Britain was in the EU or not.
“Banning menthol cigarettes is recommended by the WHO because they’re easier to inhale and make it more likely children will become addicted," she said.
"In the UK there is strong support, from the public, parliament and the government, for policies to stop children starting to smoke. Whether we’re in the EU is neither here nor there.”
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