Europe Wants To Crack Down On Cigarette Labels, Making Them More Graphic
December 19, 2012

Europe Wants To Crack Down On Cigarette Labels, Making Them More Graphic

Lee Rannals for — Your Universe Online

A new proposal may tighten-up the already tight grip on cigarette packaging within the European Union.

The law would see that graphic visual and written warnings take up 75 percent of the surface of all cigarette packs, leaving just 25 percent or less for the brand.

About 700,000 people die in Europe every year from smoking-related disease, and the costs of treatment run up to $32 billion.

The proposed legislation would ban cigarettes with a "characterizing flavor" such as menthol, strawberry or vanilla. The proposal claims that these flavored cigarettes encourage young people to start smoking. Tonio Borg of Malta, the EU health commissioner, said that if its tobacco, it should "look like tobacco and taste like tobacco."

Glenis Wilmott, Labour leader in the European parliament, said that cigarette packages should look as if they contain a dangerous drug, not a "perfume or lipstick."

"The commission proposal does not go far enough," she told The Guardian. "We need to get rid of all branding from cigarette packets, as it is the only space that the tobacco industry has left to market their products."

"Tobacco is still the leading cause of preventable death across the UK, Europe and the world. One in two long-term smokers are killed by tobacco, and the smoking rate amongst young women is on the rise," she said.

According to the European Commission, 70 percent of smokers start before the age of 18 years old, and the goal of the ban is to cut cigarette smoking by 2 percent within five years.

"This proposal ensures that attractive packaging and flavorings are not used as a marketing strategy," Borg said in a statement to Reuters Health.

The proposal does not affect cigars and pipe tobacco, because the EU claims that the consumption of these products are not attractive to young people.

Packing under the proposed law would feature pictures of cancer-infested lungs, and warnings such as "Smoking kills - quit now." Tobacco companies wouldn't be able to use words like "light," "mild" and "low tar" in their packaging either.

While some may see these actions as extreme measures, others say that they could find a stricter proposal.

Wilmott said that the draft directive "makes some positive steps forward, but does not go far enough." She suggests the EU get rid of all branding from cigarette packets, and ban all flavors and additives that improve the taste of tobacco.

According to Reuters, the ban, which has been in discussion for a few years, has led to cash-for-influence allegations and break-ins at the offices of anti-smoking groups.

Reuters reported that Monika Kosinska of the European Public Health Alliance, the head of one of the anti-smoking groups, said building security officials found evidence that thieves entered the building and stole laptops belonging to campaigners working on the proposal.

According to the report, after disabling security motion sensors, the thieves tried to delete files from a computer server in the office.