EU tardiness leads to tobacco warning delay

Government proposals to introduce shocking graphic images, such as photographs of diseased lungs, on cigarette packs have been put on hold after the European Union failed to meet a deadline on producing the pictures.

The decision means the UK will probably not see any pack changes until late next year, according to industry sources. The Government had planned to approve pictorial health warnings on tobacco products by December this year, but the EU delay means that this is unlikely to happen until next September.

By last week, the EU had been expected to create a library of potential warning pictures – such as decaying limbs, teeth and eyes – for member states to choose from when implementing the tobacco directive. However, sources say the EU is now unlikely to make the picture library available until the end of the year.

The delay has infuriated anti-smoking campaigners. Amanda Sandford, research director of anti-smoking campaign ASH, says: “We are very disappointed. We want the warnings in place as soon as possible, but are dependent on the commission for the guidelines and the pictures.”

Plans to introduce pictorial health warnings were revealed by Marketing Week earlier this year (MW February 12). Research from Australia, which already uses on-pack pictures, shows the warnings are 60 times more effective than written statements.

An EU spokesman says there has been a delay in the final approval from the commission. “The library is almost ready but needs to be put on the agenda for final approval, which should be in the next few weeks,” he says.

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