Picture health warnings: UK front runner, other EU countries urged to catch up

Wednesday 29 August 2007

ASH applauds the UK Government’s decision to introduce stark pictorial warnings on all tobacco products, noting that this signals a continuing commitment to strong tobacco control measures. [1] ASH is particularly pleased that the pictures will be applied to ALL tobacco products. This makes the UK unique in Europe: to date the UK is the only country to have made a commitment to placing graphic warnings on products on the whole range of tobacco products. Belgium has already adopted picture warnings but these are found only on cigarettes while Romania and Finland plan to implement picture warnings on cigarettes next year.

Deborah Arnott, Director of the health campaigning charity ASH, said:

“There is good evidence to show that pictures of cancerous lungs, gum disease and other distressing illnesses caused by smoking can put people off the habit. In countries where such warnings already exist, quitting rates increased as a result of the strong visual reminder of what happens to your body when you smoke.” [2]

Whilst welcoming the picture warnings ASH is urging the Government to lobby the European Commission for a wider range of stronger warnings to be included in the next review of the Tobacco Product Directive. The warnings should also be placed on both sides of the packs to increase visibility and should be made compulsory throughout the European Union. [3] In the meantime, ASH urges all other EU member states to adopt pictorial warnings as soon as possible to help their population of smokers to quit and to help deter young people from starting to smoke.


Notes and links:

[1] The new pictorial warnings will be shown on the Department of Health website from 10.40 am today. The warnings will be phased in from autumn 2008.

[2] Hammond, D et al. Text and graphic warnings on cigarette packages. Am J Prev Med 2007; 32(3): 202-209

[3] The EU Tobacco Product Directive 2001/37/EC sets out criteria for the current written health warnings and permits Member States to adopt pictorial warnings. At present graphic warnings are

not mandatory. In October 2004, the Commission released a series of 42 picture-based warnings, three for each of 14 rotated messages, from which member states can make a selection. These were included in the Department of Health’s consultation document at:


Belgium was the first EU country to require picture-based warnings (November 2006) but these apply only to cigarettes. Romania will introduce picture warnings from 1 July 2008. Finland has also announced plans to include picture warnings. Other EU countries that are considering action include Czech Republic, Ireland, Latvia, Portugal and Slovakia.

The following countries have laws requiring picture warnings (Implementation date in brackets):

Canada (2001)
Brazil (2002)
Singapore (2004)
Thailand (2005)
Venezuela (2005)
Australia (2006)
Uruguay (2006)
Jordan (2006)
Belgium (2006)
Chile (2006)
India (2007)
Hong Kong (2007)
New Zealand (2008)
Romania (2008)
Finland (2008)

Contact: Deborah Arnott 020 7739 5902 (w) 079 7693 5987 (m) or Amanda Sandford 020 7739 5902 ISDN available