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Background

There is a great wealth of scientific evidence demonstrating the detrimental health effects on
smokers, including increased risks of heart disease, lung cancer and other respiratory diseases.
Research has also highlighted the health risks to non-smokers from second hand smoke, in
particular in the work environment, but also to non-smoking partners / children in the home
environment as well as health damage to foeti in pregnant women.

Health warnings on the packages of tobacco products are a cost-effective tool (the cost is borne
by the industry) for communicating the dangers of tobacco usage as well as encouraging
consumers to quit. The first EU wide requirements for tobacco labelling were introduced in 1989
through the labelling Directive (89/622/EEC) and amended in 1992 through Directive 92/41EC.
This stated that all tobacco products should carry specific warnings but only required the
warnings to cover 4-8% of the front and back of the pack. Initially, the health warnings were in
text form.

The Tobacco Product Directive (2001/37/EC) introduced bolder health messages and radically
increased the size of the warnings and improved their legibility. According to the Directive each
unit packet of tobacco products intended to be smoked must carry a general warning (Smoking
Kills / Smoking can kill or Smoking seriously harms you and others around you) covering at
least 30-35% of the front and one of the fourteen additional warning sets covering at least 4050% of the back. Non-combustible tobacco products shall carry the general warning This
tobacco product can damage your health and is addictive.

The Directive allows Member States to require additional warnings in the form of colour
photographs and other illustrations. For that purpose the Commission adopted rules for the use
of pictorial warnings (Decision 2003/642EC) and established a library of 42 selected sourced
documents. There are three images for each health warning. Member States can choose
illustrations most suitable for consumers in their country. Belgium was the first EU Member State
to introduce pictorial warnings on cigarette packs in November 2006, followed by Romania in July
2008 and the UK in October 2008. Latvia has also adopted legislation to require the use of
pictorials from March 2010, and six further EU Member States plan to introduce pictorial
warnings in the near future.