STRASBOURG: European lawmakers yesterday approved a long-fought and divisive anti-smoking bill aimed at making cigarettes less attractive to youngsters but threw out a bid to restrict the sale of increasingly popular e-cigarettes. The European Parliament refused to classify electronic cigarettes as medicinal products, which would have restricted their sale to pharmacies. E-cigarettes, which are booming worldwide, will therefore continue to be available in tobacco shops or specialist stores but will be banned for sale to minors and no advertising will be allowed. The law, which still must win approval from the 28 European Union states, will force tobacco firms to print large health warnings covering 65 percent of the packaging, with the name of the brand printed at the bottom. Flavoured cigarettes will be banned but in a considerable watering down of the proposals, “slims” will remain on the market and menthol cigarettes will only be banned eight years after the law comes into effect.
Special envoy for Gitmo closure
WASHINGTON: US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel yesterday named congressional committee attorney Paul Lewis as a special envoy to work on closing the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The announcement was part of President Barack Obama’s renewed push to close the prison, which remains open despite his 2009 pledge to shutter the facility within a year. Obama pledged in April to reinvigorate the closure effort amid a hunger strike by detainees that led to their force-feeding. Lewis currently works as an attorney for the Democratic minority on the House of Representatives Armed Ser-vices Committee, where he deals with Guantanamo-related issues. He will take up the special envoy posting on November 1, the Pentagon said.
Germany’s Greens pick new leaders
BERLIN: Germany’s Greens party picked two new leaders yesterday to spearhead talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives this week that could usher in a historic coalition government between the erstwhile political enemies. The 63 Greens members of parliament elected centrist Katrin Goering-Eckardt, 47, and left-winger Anton Hofreiter, 43, as co-leaders, replacing party veterans Juergen Trittin, 59, and Renate Kuenast, 57. The talks with Merkel are set for tomorrow.