- The Washington Times - Friday, September 12, 2003

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union is looking for pictures scary enough to get people to stop smoking cigarettes.

The EU’s head office, the European Commission, began soliciting pictures yesterday to go along with mandatory health warnings on all cigarette packs. The EU will buy the rights to the pictures, but terms were not yet determined.

Before they start appearing in October 2004, the pictures will be tested in each of the 15 EU nations to determine how they are received, said commission spokesman Thorsten Muench.

Those approved will go into an EU photo library from which national governments can select pictures to put on the warnings.

Mr. Muench said recent studies in Canada, where such photos have been used since 2002, showed that the graphic warnings were having a positive effect in keeping young people away from cigarettes.

“It’s not a measure that will stop the die-hard [smokers],” he said. “The main focus is to prevent people from starting.”

Under rules that came into effect two years ago, EU governments were given the option of requiring photographs illustrating smoking-induced health risks.

Most if not all countries are expected to do so.

Mr. Muench said the pictures could include color photos of diseased mouths and lungs to illustrate that “smoking causes fatal lung cancer” or “smoking can cause a slow and painful death” — two of the 14 warnings.

The warnings will take up at least 40 percent of the back cover of the cigarette packages. They could include a Web site address or telephone number where smokers can get information on how to quit.

EU Health Commissioner David Byrne said the new warnings would be part of a reinforced effort to cut the number of smokers.

“Research and experience in countries which have introduced health warnings illustrated with color pictures have proven that they are one of the most effective ways to do this,” Mr. Byrne said.

A survey released by the Canadian Cancer Society last year said the graphic health warnings were noticed by 90 percent of smokers polled and 44 percent said the graphic photos increased their motivation to quit.

As part of the new rules, cigarette makers also have to set lower limits on the levels of tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide in cigarettes sold in the European Union and those produced in the 15-nation bloc for export.

The regulations also ban the use of terms such as “light” and “mild.”

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