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European Union

Report: Graphic cigarette pack warnings headed for Europe

Germans are already warned in words that smoking is dangerous to their health and to those around them. A major daily has reported that soon, photos of smokers' damaged anatomies will seek to paint thousands of words.

German mass-circulation paper "Bild" reported on Thursday that the European Commission had agreed on a common policy for tobacco products, after months of delay.

Saying it has obtained a draft document from the EU's executive, Bild reported that more explicit, pictorial health warnings would be placed on packets – along with a ban on taste-enhancing additives such as those commonly found in menthol cigarettes. Terms like "Light" would also be outlawed, along with slim cigarettes, the paper said.

Cigarette packets in Germany already carry warnings like "smoking can be deadly" or "smoking causes considerable damage to you and people around you," but countries like Australia and England have already introduced a system whereby pictures of damaged lungs, gums, teeth and other body parts are shown in photographs. The argument for such measures is that these images provide a stronger message than written health warnings.

One size fits all, no additives allowed

Bild reported that these health warnings, comprised of a combination of text and images, would take up three-quarters of the front and back of any packet of cigarettes. Having taken consumer information on taxes levied into account, the legislation would leave only around 20 percent of the packaging for the maker's mark itself.

An employee in a bookshop adjusts packaged cigarettes which have to be sold in identical olive-brown packets bearing the same typeface and largely covered with graphic health warnings, with the same style of writing so the only identifier of a brand will be the name on the packet, in Sydney on December 1, 2012. (Photo via AFP)

The new, uniform packaging introduced in Australian stores this month goes a small step further

The expected ban on artificial additives like caffeine, flavorings, vitamins or coloring would likely outlaw the production of menthol cigarettes.

Bild's information pointed to a minimum diameter of 7.5 millimeters for all cigarettes, meaning that the slim brands - particularly popular among casual smokers and women – would no longer conform to European rules.

Britain introduced comparable rules, albeit with smaller images, in October 2008. Australia, meanwhile, started placing large pictorial warnings on identical olive brown cigarette packs - with the various brands written in identical font - on December 1, 2012. This new Australian packaging is similar - though a little more strictly regulated - than the information Bild said it had obtained for Europe on Thursday. 

The British-based medical journal "The Lancet" published its "Global Burden of Disease Study 2010" on Thursday, saying smoking was the world's second-largest health risk on average around the world. The paper put smoking behind high blood pressure, with alcohol third in the table.

msh/dr (AFP, dpa, Reuters)