The EU has agreed a revised tobacco directive intended to make tobacco products less attractive by strengthening the rules on how tobacco products can be manufactured, presented and sold.

Measures to be brought into national law by member states include a ban on packs of 10 cigarettes and smaller pouches to tobacco, flavours such as menthol will be outlawed, and a combined picture and health warning will have to cover 65% of the front and the back of packets.

Member states will also be able to introduce more stringent rules on additives or on packaging of tobacco products, such as plain-packaging, subject to certain conditions. The directive also places some restrictions on e-cigarettes.

Commenting on the announcement, Jorge da Motta, UK managing director of JTI said: “Today’s announcement from the EU to ban 10s, menthol and smaller pouches of tobacco is an early Christmas present for criminal gangs across the UK. Banning 10s and smaller pack sizes of RYO will mean the lowest price will now be the street price sold by criminals who peddle to anyone, including children. Meanwhile the Government’s exchequer will have to plug the gap left from the flood of non-duty UK paid cigarettes and roll your own tobacco which will come in to the UK.

“JTI, along with many others, have expressed concerns to the Government and it is disappointing that they did not push back on this. We now urge them to put in place the resource that is going to be needed to stop the influx of illegal tobacco into the UK.

“UK retailers that rely on tobacco to generate footfall and sales will be dismayed at the decision of the EU which will put more money in the pockets of criminals instead of their tills and puts them at a significant disadvantage with their European counterparts.”

Once the directive is formally adopted by the EU, member states will have two years to transpose the new rules into national law.