Menthol cigarettes and 10-packs are being banned in the UK by the EU


Cigarettes will be sold in standardised green packaging with explicit warnings of the dangers of smoking from Friday under new rules designed to deter young people from taking up the habit.

Packs of 10 will no longer be available as the law says they must contain a minimum of 20 cigarettes to be big enough for health warnings to cover 65% of the front and back, with the brand name restricted to a standard size, font and colour.

The EU Tobacco Products Directive has allowed the UK to go further with its regulations to require all tobacco packaging to be uniformly green with large images showing the harmful effects of smoking.

Packaging of hand-rolled tobacco must also be in the same drab green colour and contain a minimum of 30g of tobacco.

Tobacco companies have been given a year to sell old stock.

The directive was adopted in 2014 but has been held up by a series of court cases testing its legality.

It includes a ban on menthol cigarettes from 2020 and promotional statements such as "this product is free of additives" or "is less harmful than other brands".

The new rules are an attempt to cut the number of smokers across the EU by 2.4 million.

New standard packaging

An estimated 700,000 premature deaths are caused each year, and cancer charities are backing the measures.

British Lung Foundation chief executive Dr Penny Woods said: "For too long glitzy, cleverly designed packaging has lured young people into smoking, a habit that takes the lives of half of all long-term smokers.

"Australia introduced plain packaging in 2012 and has already seen a decline in smoking rates. If just a fraction of the 200,000 children in the UK who start smoking a year are discouraged, thousands of lives will be saved."

Australia cigarette counter

But Simon Clark, director of the smokers' group Forest, said the new packaging rules "treat adults like children and teenagers like idiots".

He said: "Everyone knows the health risks of smoking and no-one starts because of the packaging.

"Australia was the first country to introduce standardised packaging and it hasn't worked. There is no evidence to suggest that smoking rates have fallen among children or adults as a result of the policy.

"Plain packaging is a declaration of war on consumers because the aim is to de-normalise not just the product but also the millions of adults who enjoy smoking and don't want to quit."