At the moment, health warnings need to cover at least 30% of the area of the front of the pack and 40% of the back. The European Commission had proposed increasing this to 75%, but MEPs opted for 65% coverage.
Linda McAvan, the UK Labour MEP steering the legislation on the Tobacco Product Directive, said the vote “gained agreement for graphic health warnings (front and back) which will cover 65% of cigarette packages across Europe, taking a big step towards plain packaging”.
Groups of IP owners including Marques and ECTA had urged MEPs to reject plain packaging, describing it as an “excessive measure restricting normal use of trade marks”.
MEPs will now negotiate a first-reading agreement with EU ministers. Once the legislation is approved by the Council and Parliament, member states will have 18 months in which to translate the directive into their national laws.
Debates over the efficacy and legality of plain packaging are taking place around the world. Australia’s plain packaging legislation is being challenged at the WTO. Last week UK charity the British Heart Foundation said a cross-country survey it carried out showed that only a third of UK teenagers are deterred from smoking by current cigarette packs, compared to almost half in Australia, where packs are almost entirely covered by graphic warnings.
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