There is a great wealth of scientific evidence demonstrating the detrimental health effects on smokers, including increased risks of heart disease, lung cancer and other respiratory diseases. Research has also highlighted the health risks to non-smokers from second hand smoke, in particular in the work environment, but also to non-smoking partners / children in the home environment as well as health damage to foeti in pregnant women.
Health warnings on the packages of tobacco products are a cost-effective tool (the cost is borne by the industry) for communicating the dangers of tobacco usage as well as encouraging consumers to quit. The first EU wide requirements for tobacco labelling were introduced in 1989 through the labelling Directive (89/622/EEC) and amended in 1992 through Directive 92/41EC. This stated that all tobacco products should carry specific warnings but only required the warnings to cover 4-8% of the front and back of the pack.
Initially, the health warnings were in text form.
The Tobacco Product Directive (2001/37/EC) introduced bolder health messages and radically increased the size of the warnings and improved their legibility. According to the
Directive each unit packet of tobacco products intended to be smoked must carry a general warning (“Smoking Kills / Smoking can kill” or “Smoking seriously harms you and others around you”) covering at least 30-35% of the front and one of the fourteen additional warning sets covering at least 40-50% of the back. Non-combustible tobacco products shall carry the general warning “This tobacco product can damage your health and is addictive”.
The Directive allows Member States to require additional warnings in the form of colour photographs and other illustrations. For that purpose the Commission adopted rules for the use of pictorial warnings (Decision 2003/642EC) and established a library of 42 selected sourced documents. There are three images