A LEADING union official will visit Southampton today to show his support for British American Tobacco workers, whose jobs are under threat.

Roger Lyons, general secretary of the Manufacturing Science and Finance union which represents skilled and professional people, is due to meet union representatives and management to discuss the proposed European Union ban on cigarette exports.

More than 1,200 jobs in the city could be at risk if the EU proposal to ban factories from manufacturing cigarettes containing more than 10mg of tar becomes law.

Management and unions at the Millbrook factory fear the site could be forced to close because most cigarettes made at the plant are for export to countries where customers prefer a stronger smoke. Thousands of other associated jobs could also go.

Mr Lyons said: "We are currently making representations to the European Parliament and UK government at the highest level, to protect jobs in the UK tobacco industry. The proposed EU ban on exports would spell disaster for many thousands of UK jobs."

The Council of Health Ministers and European Parliament are currently in conciliation over the proposal.

An outcome is expected in six weeks.