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Thursday, 1 March, 2001, 08:42 GMT
EU takes firmer line on tobacco
Smoking
Cigarette packets could carry graphic images of disease

The European Union has decided on tougher laws controlling the production and sale of tobacco.

A new directive will ban the manufacture of high-tar cigarettes in EU member states - even if they are for export.

Health warnings on cigarette packets will be bigger, and individual countries may insist on photographs of the effects of smoking-related diseases.

Descriptions such as "light" and "mild" will be prohibited.

The directive has been fiercely opposed by the tobacco industry. It was agreed after compromise talks between the European Parliament and the EU's Council of Ministers.

Both bodies must now give it formal approval.

Cancer expert

Professor Peter Boyle, of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund and scientific advisor to the Directive said: "This is landmark legislation which could have enormous public health benefits throughout Europe.

"Tobacco smoking is the most important preventable cause of death throughout the developed world and is responsible for half a million deaths every year across the EU."

Professor Boyle said the bigger and clearer the warning, the better the chances of smokers getting the message about the health risks of their habit.

He said: "Smokers all over Europe are being conned by misleading descriptions such as 'low tar' and 'light' so it's about time that these labels were banned.

"Smokers switch to these brands rather than quit because they think these cigarettes are less harmful.

"But research conducted by Imperial Cancer scientists has shown that smokers inhale up to eight times the amount of tar and nicotine than the pack labeling suggests."

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13 Dec 00 | Health
Tough tobacco warnings approved
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