From its headquarters in Brussels, the European Union is sending
a message to the Marlboro Man: "This town ain't big enough for the
both of us."
In its latest showdown with the tobacco industry, the 15-member
union has drafted tough new rules that could put color photographs
of diseased lungs and rotting teeth on cigarette packs sold in
The move comes amid alarming signs that more and more young
people in Western Europe are taking up the habit.
"I believe that young people have the right to smoke, but the
tobacco manufacturers spend huge sums of money trying to make their
products appear glamorous, and this image needs to be countered,"
said Jules Maaten, the Dutch member of the European Parliament who
sponsored the legislation.
"This directive represents a watershed in the fight against the
scourge of tobacco," EU health commissioner David Byrne told
reporters last week, after EU authorities agreed on the law. "My
key priority is to ensure that young people do not start smoking."
The law, which takes effect next September, requires
cigarettemakers to put blunt health warnings over 30 percent of the
front of a pack and nearly half of the back. They will be able to
choose from an approved list of warnings such as "Smoking kills"
and "Smokers die younger." EU-member governments may also insist on
color photographs illustrating the dangers of smoking. In Canada,
such illustrations have been found to be 60 percent more effective
than written cautions.
The law also lowers the amount of tar allowed in cigarettes, and
for the first time limits the permissible quantities of nicotine
and carbon monoxide.
At the same time, it bans the use of such terms as "mild,"
"light," or "low-tar" on tobacco packaging, on the grounds that
they misleadingly suggest some cigarettes are safer than others.
This ban threatens such brand names as Marlboro Lights and Camel
"We now have the means to take rigorous measures against the
greatest threat to public health in Europe today," said Lars
Engqvist, the Swedish health minister, in a statement. Sweden
currently holds the rotating EU presidency.
Smoking is blamed for the deaths of 500,000 people a year in
Western Europe, where about one-third of adults smoke. Mr. Byrne
said his goal is to bring that number down to levels in the United
States, where about 20 percent of people smoke.
The new directive won praise from antismoking activists. "It is a
great success, and we are all very pleased," says Clive Bates,
director of the London-based Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
lobbying group. …