Irish health minister calls for tougher smoking laws

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Irish Health Minister James Reilly has said he would like to see draft EU legislation on tobacco go "even further".

Speaking at a meeting of the EU Health Council on 5 March 2013, he said tobacco was a "child protection issue" and that he wanted to ban smoking in any area where children may be present, such as beaches, parks and near playgrounds.

"We want to de-normalise smoking," he stated, and said that the draft directive would ensure people see "the reality and not the advertising" of tobacco products.

The draft revisions to existing EU tobacco laws would make it compulsory to include "shocking" pictorial information on tobacco labels and that warnings would have to cover 75% of cigarette packets.

The new directive would also ban strong flavours such as menthol or vanilla, which can mask the taste of tobacco.

The council meeting - which was convened to discuss general health issues in the EU - was addressed by the Health Commissioner Tonio Borg who warned that the economic crisis should not lead to a worsening of European health.

"Instead of whining, we need to find solutions to do more with less," he insisted.

He said EU governments should look at new ways to cut costs in the health sector, such as "e-prescriptions".

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