The Finnish government backs an EU plan to ban flavoured tobacco products including menthol cigarettes.
EU health ministers approved the ban at a meeting on Friday in Luxemburg. Friday's plan of the member states now goes for negotiation to the European Parliament, where even tougher curbs on the use of tobacco might be sought.
Finnish Minister of Health and Social Services Susanna Huovinen notes that menthol cigarettes are particularly popular in Finland and that studies show they lower the threshold for young people to begin smoking. About seven out of 10 smokers start before the age of 18.
A quarter of all cigarettes sold in Finland are menthol. The ban, which is expected to come into force a year from now, would also affect flavoured snuff sold in Sweden under the name snus.
Concessions to Eastern European holdouts
Health ministers agreed to ease tough planned restrictions on tobacco products to overcome opposition from some governments to the draft rules.
The blueprint was decided despite the opposition of four nations that are more lenient toward smoking: Poland, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria and Romania.
The ministers rejected a ban on slim cigarettes proposed by the bloc's executive, the European Commission, but said they should be sold in normal-sized packets to reduce their appeal. Member states also backed plans for bigger and bolder health warnings on cigarette packs.
The EU estimates that says 28 percent of the EU's 500 million citizens still smoke and that 700,000 people die annually in its 27 countries as a result of smoking.
It says that treating smoking-related diseases costs some 25 billion euros a year.