The ban is a part of EU-wide anti-smoking legislation, due to be
implemented in 2016, which also includes tougher rules on packaging
Polish Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Economy Janusz
Piechocinski has said that menthol-flavored cigarettes should be
considered a traditional product - not unlike the Swedish "snus",
powdered tobacco placed under the lip – and therefore exempt from
According to the World Lung Foundation, Poland remains one of the
EU's heavy-smoking nations, with annual consumption of 1,586
cigarettes per capita - twice as large as Britain's.
But while the country's tobacco consumption rates are by no means
extraordinary, its affection for menthol certainly is: nearly one in
every five cigarettes sold here is menthol-flavored, compared to one
in ten in Sweden and below one in a hundred in Spain, Austria or
"Menthol cigarettes were introduced to Poland in 1953 and Polish
smokers have developed a unique taste for them," said Magdalena
Wlodarczyk, representing British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco,
Philip Morris and Japan Tobacco International, which together have
99 percent of the Polish market.
"There is no reason why they should get hit so hard over this."
As well as being a consumer, the country is also the second-largest
producer of tobacco in the EU, with Polish tobacco farms employing
over 60,000 people.
It is also the seventh-largest manufacturer of cigarettes in the
world, with five processing sites and six factories employing
Poland's tobacco industry welcomed the government's appeal, to be
made to the Court of Justice of the European Union.
"Burley, the tobacco used in production of menthol cigarettes
because of its flavor-absorbing properties accounts for nearly 40
percent of Poland's production," said Lech Ostrowski, head of the
National Union of Tobacco Farmers, representing 7,000 producers.
"We can't all switch to growing Virginia, because the market will
simply not accommodate it and prices will fall."
A report commissioned by Poland's National Association of the
Tobacco Industry says the new tobacco legislation will destroy
30,000 jobs in production, manufacturing and distribution.
[to top of second column]
The report also estimates that it will cost the country up to nine
billion zlotys ($3 billion) in lost tax revenue every year, as
Polish menthol smokers turn to cigarettes smuggled in from Belarus
A KPMG study commissioned by the same body estimates that illegal
cigarettes account for over 10 percent of market share across the EU
and nearly 14 percent in Poland itself.
"By ensuring that tobacco products look and taste like tobacco
products, the new rules will help to reduce the number of people who
start smoking in the EU," European Health Commissioner Tonio Borg
said in a statement.
Borg spoke of the devastating effect tobacco had on the health of EU
citizens, citing 700,000 premature deaths every year and 14 fewer
years of life on average for smokers.
Poland's Minister of Health Bartosz Arlukowicz supported the
legislation, and Piechocinski said the appeal caused a "fierce
argument" between them.
But while the economic concerns seem to have ultimately outweighed
the public health risks, the Agriculture Minister Marek Sawicki said
that tobacco farmers needed to use the time the appeal buys them and
invest in other crops, as "the war for tobacco was already lost".
($1 = 3.0703 Polish Zlotys)
(Editing by Keiron Henderson)
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