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ERS calls on EU to adopt plain packaging of tobacco products to discourage young smokers

29 February 2012, Brussels – Plain packaging of tobacco products should be introduced in Europe to reduce the appeal of smoking among adolescents, according to the ERS, and other health based organisations.

Cigarette packaging with plain fonts, no logos and large and explicit picture and text messages will further de-normalise and de-glamorise smoking. Promotional branding continues to drive teen smoking; a cigarette pack can become a 'badge' in the same way as trainers and mobile phones do, according to the Belgian Foundation against Cancer, the French league against Cancer and the Smoke Free Partnership of which ERS is a member. These organisations held a conference in the European Parliament on the 29th of February.1

"Introducing plain packaging would deter smoking thus contributing to the prevention of all four of today's major killers: cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic lung disease and diabetes," says Prof Marc Decramer, immediate ERS past president who attending the high level event in the European Parliament.

He adds: "Health experts everywhere recognise this policy development as one of the most cost-effective public health measures available to governments today".

International public health expert and social scientist, David Hammond from the University of Waterloo, Canada, says: "The brand imagery, logos, and designs on cigarette packs serve as a critically important promotional tool, particularly for reaching priority groups such as young women and youth."

"My research shows that plain packaging of cigarettes would reduce the attractiveness of smoking, particularly among young people. Plain packaging would also help to reduce false beliefs that some cigarette brands are less harmful than others."2

Australia is the first country in the world to pass legislation on plain packaging3 but there is a worldwide trend towards larger picture and text warnings. Some EU countries already have sizable pictorial warnings, and legislation in Uruguay requires images covering 80% of the front and back of cigarette packs.4

In Europe, the current challenge is to stop adolescents from becoming smokers, the organisers say. Europe has the highest rate of 13-15 year old smokers in the world5 – and those who become regular long term smokers have a 1 in 2 risk of dying from a tobacco related disease6.

"Our top priority is large (80%) mandatory picture warnings at the front and back of all tobacco products (not only cigarette packs) in combination with standardised, plain packaging. We also stress the importance of adding quit lines on the pack of all tobacco products," says Florence Berteletti-Kemp of the Smoke Free Partnership.

The European Commission is currently considering a revision of the Tobacco Directive. It has reported on its consultation, including comments on plain packaging.7 Having signed the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control8, the European Union should be committed to introducing plain packaging. "Plain packing is feasible, legal and easily implementable. It does not cost any money to governments and works for public health. There is no excuse not to do it," Ms Berteletti-Kemp adds.




1 High level conference on pictorial health warnings and standardised packaging for tobacco products, European Parliament - Room: Altiero Spinelli A5G-2 From 18.00 till 21:00, co-hosted by a group of cross-party MEPs: Karl-Heinz Florenz, Glenis Willmott, Carl Schlyter and Antonyia Parvanova. (Invitation only)

2 David Hammond's website, Tobacco labelling resource centre includes a section on plain packaging see

3 Watch Nicola Roxon, former Australian health minister talk about plain packaging on ABC News, 6 April 2010 Health warnings in Australia will be required to cover 75% of the front of packs and 90% of the back of packs.

4 See "International rankings" in Cigarette Package Health Warnings, International Status Report, October 2010. Ten EU countries have already adopted legislation to introduce pictorial health warnings (Belgium, Romania, United Kingdom, Latvia, Malta, France, Spain, Hungary, Denmark and Ireland).

5 Warren C W et al, Patterns of global tobacco use in young people and implications for future chronic disease burden in adults, Vol 367 March 4, 2006 also available at

6 Peto R. and Lopez A., The future worldwide health effects of current smoking patterns

7 European Commission, Public consultation on the possible revision of the Tobacco Directive,

8 Spotlight on the Labelling and Packaging of Tobacco Products, Articles 11 and 13 of the FCTC, Issue Eight, May 2011 (available in many languages)

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