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Economic and Social Policies, PUBLICATIONS

Know what you shouldn’t buy: no more logos on cigarette packs

Tobacco is the largest single cause of avoidable death, disease and disability in the European Union. It claims the lives of some 650,000 people each year. And yet, even in the face of such scientific evidence, people still smoke.

European Union

Is this how cigarette pack will look like?

Copyright by Alexandru Nika, Shutterstock.com

EU legislation on the control of tobacco regulates the marketing of tobacco products for public health reasons and ensures appropriate consumer information and harmonised standards.

The key legislation comes from the Directive on Tobacco Products and the Directive on Tobacco Advertising.

This Directive aims to approximate the laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the Member States concerning: the maximum tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide yields of cigarettes; the warnings regarding health and other information to appear on unit packets of tobacco products; certain measures concerning the ingredients and the descriptions of tobacco products. In the latest revision of this directive the European Commission adopted 14 new health warnings to appear on tobacco packs. Written health warnings on tobacco products sold in the EU have been compulsory since 2003. The legislation in force also foresees periodic updating of the health warnings.

Australia goes further

Australia’s highest court upheld the world’s toughest law on cigarette promotion, prohibiting tobacco company logos on cigarette packs that will instead show cancer-riddled mouths, blinded eyeballs and sickly children.

The High Court rejected a challenge by tobacco companies who argued the value of their trademarks will be destroyed if they are no longer able to display their distinctive colors, brand designs and logos on packs of cigarettes.

Starting in December 2012, packs will instead come in a uniformly drab shade of olive and feature dire health warnings and graphic photographs of smoking’s health effects. The government, which has urged other countries to adopt similar rules, hopes the new packs will make smoking as unglamorous as possible.

Many countries mandate that packages display photos or text describing smoking’s health effects, and some limit the size of the branding or ban certain slogans, but Australia’s dual approach would be the strictest globally.

More information:

Australian High Court: JT International SA v Commonwealth of Australia; British American Tobacco Australasia Limited & Ors v Commonwealth of Australia

Australian Tobacco Plain Packaging Act 2011

Special eurobarometer on attitudes of Europeans towards tobacco – Country factsheets available

Commission Directive 2012/9/EU amending Annex I to Directive 2001/37/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on the approximation of the laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the Member States concerning the manufacture, presentation and sale of tobacco products.

Resolution of the Council and the Ministers for Health of the Member States, meeting within the Council of 18 July 1989 on banning smoking in places open to the public

Information on EU Tobacco Control

About Geert Plas

Polyvalent information specialist at the European Parliament Library

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