Ireland’s Health Service Executive is investigating whether cigarette makers are breaching a recently enacted EU ban on menthol cigarettes, reports The Irish Times.
The move comes after Minister for Health Simon Harris accused tobacco companies of “undermining” the ban by exploiting loopholes in the new rules.
Cigarette manufacturers throughout the EU have been introducing substitute products targeting former menthol smokers, but critics contend some of the new products fall foul of the ban. Japan Tobacco International’s (JTI) Silk Cut Choice Green variant, for example, still contains low level of menthol, but the company insists this is legal as long as the cigarettes have no other smell or taste than tobacco.
JTI says it shared in advance the ingredients for its new menthol-added product with the relevant authorities in Ireland and the EU. “So there is full transparency throughout this process,” the company said.
Philip Morris International launched Marlboro Bright, which it sells as a “menthol blend without mentholation.”
Meanwhile, Irish retailers, who commit a criminal offence if they sell menthol-flavored cigarettes, have started contacting manufacturers asking for confirmation that the substitute products they introduced after the menthol ban are legal.
The Irish market for menthol cigarettes was valued at €250 million ($284.27 million) prior to the EU ban.