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Irish government backs ban on cigarette pack branding

Packs of cigarettes are seen on a shelf at a tobacco store in central Madrid December 3, 2010. REUTERS/Andrea Comas
Packs of cigarettes are seen on a shelf at a tobacco store in central Madrid December 3, 2010. REUTERS/Andrea Comas

By Conor Humphries

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland is to become the first country in the European Union to ban branding on cigarette packages by using plain packaging and uniform labeling, the government said on Tuesday.

All trademarks, logos, colors and graphics will be removed from tobacco products sold in Ireland under the new rules, the Health Ministry said, after the proposal secured backing from the government.

Smoking was a central part of Ireland's pub culture until the country became the first in the world to ban smoking in all enclosed public places, public transport and workplaces in 2004.

Over 5,000 people still die every year from tobacco related diseases, the Health Ministry said.

The law will need to be approved in parliament before it can come into effect, but the governing coalition enjoys a strong majority.

Under the plan, the brand name will be presented in a uniform typeface in packs of one plain neutral color, which has yet to specified.

The British government is considering banning branding on cigarette packets, but the proposal was omitted from the government's legislative agenda laid out in parliament earlier this month.

Australia introduced plain olive green packets for cigarettes and tobacco products last year, prompting anger from tobacco firms.

Companies such as Philip Morris and British American Tobacco fear that plain packaging would eat into sales of higher margin brands and say it would encourage the global black market in tobacco.

Cuba, whose luxury cigars are world renowned and feature distinctive packages, has launched a challenge against the Australian law at the World Trade Organization.

(Editing by Alison Williams)

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