EU adopts new health warnings for tobacco packaging

On March 7, the European Commission adopted a Directive introducing a set of 14 new written health warnings due to appear on tobacco packaging in the near future. The 14 warnings were chosen following a Eurobarometer survey conducted across the 27 Member States to test European perceptions of the dangers of tobacco, and establish how more effective risk warnings can be communicated to discourage uptake and encourage cessation.

The survey showed that though a majority of people are aware of the health risks involved in smoking, they underestimate their extent. It also found that in order to remain effective, written health warnings on tobacco packages need to be regularly updated. The conclusion was that the use of certain “themes” can be more effective than others when it comes to successfully communicating an anti-smoking message. These include quoting statistics, referring to the harmful effect smoking has on children’s health, and the use of the word “cancer”. Sentences such as “Smoking causes 9 out of 10 lung cancers”, “Your smoke harms your children, family and friends” and “If you smoke, your children will smoke”, along with 11 others, will soon begin to appear on cigarette packages. Press release

EFA welcomes the regular renewal of the warnings but regrets that respiratory diseases are hardly mentioned in any of them, in particular COPD in its own right, as awareness of its risks and devastating consequences is probably lower than that of all other serious smoking related diseases

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