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Last Drag? EU Commissioner Pushes for a Smoke-Free Europe

A smoking ban for all of Europe? That is what European Health Commissioner John Dalli is calling for. He also wants to cut the amount of nicotine in cigarettes and outlaw their display in shops and supermarkets.

The European Union's commissioner for health and consumer policy, John Dalli of Malta, is calling for new rules that would help lead to his goal of a "smoke-free Europe." Zoom
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The European Union's commissioner for health and consumer policy, John Dalli of Malta, is calling for new rules that would help lead to his goal of a "smoke-free Europe."

Despite recent efforts to ban smoking in Germany at the state level, loopholes in anti-smoking laws mean it is still easy to find a smoke-filled corner bar in Berlin or other cities. Now, the European Union's commissioner for health and consumer policy, John Dalli of Malta, is calling for new rules that would help lead to his goal of a "smoke-free Europe."

In an interview with the German daily Die Welt, Dalli announced that he would take much stronger action against smoking and that the European Commission would introduce plans for new legislation in 2011.

"Because of the higher levels of illness it creates, smoking damages the economy by diminishing productivity and burdens the health care system each year with billions of euros in costs," he told the newspaper. Around 650,000 Europeans die each year as a result of smoking, he has estimated.

Dalli said he wants to make smoking less attractive in the EU member states and also to make cigarettes less dangerous. One measure he is considering is to mandate a significant reduction in the amount of toxic and addictive substances in cigarettes, like nicotine.

Disturbing Photos on Packaging

Another is to require tobacco companies to use the drabbest possible packaging for cigarettes to make them less appealing to buyers. "The more standard and plain the cigarette packaging, the better," he told Die Welt. He also made a plea for the EU-wide use of disturbing warning photos on cigarette packages to act as a deterrent, as well as comprehensive warnings about the harmful ingredients contained in cigarettes.

Furthermore, the health commissioner is looking into a ban on displaying cigarettes in stores. He praised a decision in Britain to ban cigarette sales in supermarkets starting in 2011 as "exemplary."

Dalli said he would push for a total smoking ban in all public spaces, on public transportation and in the workplace. Noting the exceptions made in German states to smoking bans, Dalli said: "I do not think that exceptions for corner bars or beer tents (at fairs in Bavaria) make much sense -- after all, this issue doesn't just pertain to the health of the visitor, but also workers."

The European Commission has long sought to impose regulations on smoking. In 2009, the Commission proposed that legislation be created to ban all public smoking by 2012. The new Commission, which took office in February 2010, appears to be following in its footsteps.

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