Both of these claims have been front and centre of the tobacco industry’s large campaign against the TPD, and are both rejected outright by experts in the field.

Line in the sand

The European Commission is now warning the European parliament that a dramatic reduction in the size of health warnings would not be tolerated.

Frederic Vincent, the spokesman for the Commission’s Directorate General for Health and Consumers, says that anything below 65 percent would be unacceptable.

“Going below a certain threshold, let’s say two thirds, would not be something we would support,” Mr Vincent told DW. “There are some member states, such as Belgium , which already have 65 percent of the package dedicated to health warnings. So, indeed, going beneath that could be a wrong message to send to member states.”

However, on the issue of “slim” and so called “flavored” cigarettes, such as menthol, the commission is confident its proposed ban will be supported by both the parliament and European Council.

“When this issue was discussed with member states a few months back it looked like it was an issue on which the member states could agree,” Vincent says.

Irish courage

Yet Ireland, which along with Finland is seen as Europe’s strongest supporter of tobacco controls, has real concerns that the TPD will emerge from parliament on Tuesday substantially weakened.

Nothing to do with arbroath: new ‘fire-safe’ cigarettes will put themselves out

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Cigarettes that stop burning within two minutes of being put down are to replace conventional brands in an attempt to reduce the number of casualties from fires started by smouldering butts.

The European Commission is to ban traditional cigarettes by 2009 10, forcing smokers to buy ‘fire safe’ cigarettes that need constant drags to keep them alight.

Arlene McCarthy, a British Labour member of the European Parliament and chair of its consumer protection committee, said ‘It’s very good news. It will save lives. At the moment some people come home, have had a few drinks, fall asleep on the sofa with a cigarette in their hand, it falls on to flammable material and the next thing you know you’ve got a fire. Fire safe cigarettes greatly reduce the risk of that happening.’

McCarthy admitted it may prove unpopular among Britain’s 10 million smokers. ‘Some smokers have said that they felt it would interfere with their smoking experience, but as long as you are smoking the cigarette and drawing on it, it will stay lit. The sensation for the smoker will be no different. But the safety effect will be massive.’