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Back To Vidyya European Officials To Vote On Graphic Health Warnings For Cigarette Packs

Aim Is To Use Powerful Images To Shock Smokers

Euro MPs will decide on Tuesday whether to approve controversial legislation to force the tobacco industry to print graphic health warnings on Europe's cigarette packs.

The warnings would cover almost a third of each pack's surface.

The aim is to use powerful images to shock smokers into realizing just how big a risk they are taking with their health.

The tobacco industry has campaigned intensively against the proposal.

It has already overturned a proposal to ban advertising and promotion of tobacco products across the European Union by successfully arguing in the European Court that such a move was illegal.

Euro MP Catherine Stihler, Labour's Health Spokeswoman, said: "If the size of the health warning directly reflected the risk to health, the label would cover the whole cigarette pack.

"Half of all long term smokers will eventually be killed by tobacco and of these, half will die during middle age losing 20 to 25 years of life.

Blackened lungs

"We must go the extra mile to show people what they do to themselves when they smoke.

"If vivid pictures of rotting teeth and blackened lungs bring home the true cost of smoking, print them on packs in the UK in full colour."

Ms Stihler, said existing health warnings were obscured by clever colour combinations, striking packaging and tucked behind careful displays.

She said: "Most smokers neither know the full risks nor bear the full costs of their choice."

The new legislation would also outlaw the use of phrases such as "light", "mild" and "low tar".

Ms Stihler said: "Europe's consumers have been sold the idea that 'light', 'mild' and 'low tar' cigarettes are healthier, but they have been taken for a ride.

"Low tar cigarettes inflict the same damage as conventional cigarettes - smokers just draw harder to get the same kick."

Current EU legislation requires cigarette health warnings to cover a minimum of four per cent of the pack.

Member states have the option to go further and the UK opted for six per cent.

Under the new proposals, the size of cigarette health warning labels would be increased to cover almost a third of the pack and for the first time include hard-hitting images of the impact that smoking can have on health.

They will also have to be printed in black on a white background - as opposed to the current system which requires only "contrasting colours."

The proposals also include plans to reduce the tar content in cigarettes from 12mg to a maximum of 10mg per cigarette and introduce an EU ceiling for nicotine of 1mg and of carbon monoxide of 10mg.

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Editor: Susan K. Boyer, RN
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