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How a ‘no-deal’ Brexit will change your cigarette packets

How a ‘no-deal’ Brexit will change your cigarette packets: Graphic warnings will have to be replaced by Australian versions because the EU owns the copyright to grim pictures

  • The Government has an agreement to use Australian warnings if there’s no deal
  • Cigarette packet warnings have been required by law since 2008 in the UK
  • The European Commission owns the copyright for the images currently used 

Graphic warning pictures on the front of cigarette packets will change in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the Government says.

The European Commission owns the copyright for the disturbing images currently used, so the UK may no longer be allowed to use them from March 2019.

But officials have struck a deal to also use the same warnings as Australia, where the pictures have been required by law since 2012.

Britain’s future after leaving the EU remains uncertain, as Prime Minister Theresa May continues to work towards a deal with the bloc.

The health warning labels on cigarette packets could change if the UK doesn’t establish a deal with the EU before Brexit in March (pictured: examples of the warning labels on Australian cigarette packets)

Cigarette warnings were one of a number of small ways leaving the EU without a deal could affect daily life in the UK – others include mobile roaming charges abroad and extra credit card charges.

Tobacco manufacturers have been required to put the warning pictures on their packets since 2008 in the UK, and plain green packaging was brought in in 2016.

The measures were introduced to put people off buying cigarettes, responsible for around 78,000 premature deaths every year.

Photos on UK packets include graphic images of cancerous tumours, damaged lungs, dead bodies, rotting teeth, sick children and impotent men.

And figures suggest they work – between 2010 and 2016, the proportion of people who smoked fell from 19.9 per cent to 15.5 per cent.

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In a report on the effect of Brexit on the tobacco industry the Department of Health and Social Care wrote: ‘Manufacturers will need to ensure that tobacco products produced from exit day onwards feature new picture warnings, which have been secured by agreement with the Australian government.

‘Tobacco products featuring pictures from the EU library, produced before exit day, may be sold for 12 months after exit day.’

Cigarette packet warnings have been required by law in Australia since 2012 – four years after the UK – and carry similar messages about the dangers of the killer habit (pictured: examples of the warning labels on Australian cigarette packets)

The Australian government’s warning labels, which could be used in the UK after Brexit, show similar cautions to the EU packaging.


The end of smoking is finally ‘in sight’, officials claimed in June 2017 following figures that suggested another drop in rates across the UK.

Just one in six adults now regularly light up cigarettes – with 680,000 having given up the habit completely in 2016.

The numbers of smokers dropped from 19.9 per cent in 2010 to just 15.5 per cent in 2016 in England alone, according to data from the Office for National Statistics.

Across all ages smoking prevalence is in decline, with the largest fall in 18-to-24 year olds, while e-cigarette use is on the rise in this age group.

Duncan Selbie, chief executive of Public Health England, said the UK has the second lowest smoking rate in Europe after Sweden, which proves that the Government’s tobacco-control policies are effective.

Pictures of mouth cancer, gangrene, blackened lungs and a man with a hole in his neck through which to breathe are all among potential photos to be used.

Brexit could also disrupt the supply of medicines to the UK, and the country’s main supplier of insulin for diabetes patients is stockpiling the drug.

Danish healthcare company Novo Nordisk announced in September it is building a four-month stockpile of the vital medication before March 2019.

The firm is stockpiling amid fears Britain will leave the European Union without new trade deals in March, which could make it difficult to import drugs.

The company said it is committed to making sure its patients’ health is not affected by Brexit. 

It comes after clinical trials in the UK into a potential heart drug by research firm Recardio were halted last week due to fears over Brexit. 

Britain’s deadline to leave the EU is March 2019, however fears have mounted in recent weeks that it will crash out of the bloc without a deal.

Brussels has dismissed parts of Theresa May’s proposed terms, stating that the Prime Minister cannot ‘cherry-pick’ terms Britain will agree to.

If the EU and Britain fail to reach terms, it could scupper plans of a 21-month transition period after officially leaving the bloc.

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