Intended for healthcare professionals


European Union toughens antismoking stance

BMJ 2001; 322 doi: (Published 26 May 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;322:1266
  1. Rory Watson
  1. Brussels

    The European Union is preparing to put in place some of the world's toughest antismoking legislation in a bid to reduce drastically the number of deaths and illnesses related to tobacco.

    Under EU rules agreed this month, national governments will be able to insist that from September 2002, tobacco manufacturers place graphic pictures of rotting teeth and cancerous lungs on cigarette packets.

    The initiative, which is already practised in Canada, is intended to bring home, to young people in particular, the dangers of smoking and remove any sense of glamour from the habit.

    Some EU governments may eventually decide not to demand such visual warnings. But from the same date every cigarette packet will have to devote 30% of its front and 40% of its back to statements such as “Smoking kills,” “Smoking can kill,” “Smokers die younger,” or “Smoking seriously harms you and others around you.”

    In addition, these warnings must be printed in bold black type on a white background and be surrounded by black borders, giving them greater prominence than the present system.

    Under the new legislation, tobacco companies will have to introduce further health related measures. By the end of December 2002 at the latest, they must submit on an annual basis a list of ingredients contained in their products.

    From September 2003, descriptions such as “low tar,” “light,” and “mild” will be banned. By January 2004 the tar content of cigarettes will be reduced from 12 mg to 10 mg, and a ceiling of 1 mg will apply for nicotine.

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