Anyone caught selling menthol cigarettes could be fined up to €1,000 as from May 20, when EU-wide rules come into force.

New tobacco regulations that form part of the EU’s Tobacco Products Directive come into force in the coming months, and they bring with them significant fines if not adhered to.

When contacted, Superintendent of Public Health Charmaine Gauci said those who are caught by the authorities selling such products could be liable to a fine of between €200 and €1,000, in line with the law.

“On a second or subsequent conviction, in addition to such fines, and, at the request of the prosecution, the person could be subject to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months.

“Besides these fines, there will be seizure of illegal products,” Dr Gauci said.

The person could be subject to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months

According to the Health Ministry, around 360 people die each year in Malta from diseases linked to tobacco, while 20 per cent of the Maltese population smoke on a daily basis. National studies have also revealed 12 per cent of 15-year-old boys and 11 per cent of 15-year-old girls smoke.

Asked whether there would be any awareness-raising campaigns by the Health Department, Dr Gauci simply said: “These products should not be on the market”.

The new rules were set by the EU in 2016, when graphic health warnings with photos, text and cessation information covering 65 per cent of the front and the back of cigarette and roll-your-own tobacco (RYO) packs became mandatory.

While the ban on menthol cigarettes will come into force later on in 2020, a decision which was based on the products having more than three per cent market share, those with other flavours masking the taste and smell of tobacco were banned in 2016.