Tories make last-ditch attempt to prevent action on take up of smoking by children

Tory MEPs are set to make a last ditch attempt to stop Labour-led reforms designed to reduce the take up of smoking by children.

At lunchtime today the Conservative Party’s most senior MEP is expected to make a last ditch attempt to stop Labour-led reforms designed to reduce the take up of smoking by children.

New European legislation, which has been steered through the European Parliament by Labour MEP Linda McAvan, will have its final vote today. The package has the support of a significant majority of the European Parliament and the backing of almost all EU countries, with the UK government strongly supportive.

The Tories’ ECR group was the only political group to oppose the agreement with national governments in December; the Tories voted against the agreement as a whole in committee last month, and various Tory MEPs tabled tobacco industry amendments throughout the process.

The Conservatives are now using last-minute tactics to delay the whole thing on a technicality.

Martin Callanan, the lead MEP on this issue for the ECR group, has made a formal request to delay the vote tomorrow. Just before the vote, he is expected to disrupt proceedings and force a vote on postponement. Every other mainstream political group supports the agreement.

Commenting on the move, Labour’s European spokesperson on the environment Linda McAvan MEP told Left Foot Forward:

“It is one thing to vote against the agreement, which we expect all Tory and UKIP MEPs to do, but it is another to actively campaign to derail it.

“Postponement would mean it is very unlikely we will have a tobacco directive in time for the elections, kicking the law into the long grass. It is exactly what the tobacco industry wants, as it will buy them another few years.”

The measures being voted on today include larger graphic warnings on 65 per cent of tobacco products, with national governments free to go further and introduce plain packaging; a ban on flavoured cigarettes and lipstick and perfume packs, which are specifically targeted at young people; and proper regulation of e-cigarettes for the first time.

Tobacco is the cause of more than 100,000 deaths each year in the UK – nearly half of smokers will die from a smoking related disease – and remains the leading cause of preventable premature deaths across Europe.

More than 700,000 people a year die in the European Union as a result of smoking and 70 per cent of those started smoking before the age of 18.

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