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Brussels (dpa) - Cigarette packets sold in the European Union as of October 2004 could carry shocking pictures of diseased lungs and dying cancer patients to back up existing mandatory health warnings, the European Commission said Monday.
Putting graphic health alerts on cigarette packs will not be obligatory but the Commission said it would encourage the bloc's governments to use such illustrations as much as possible.
"We have to find new and innovative ways to illustrate the shocking truth that half of all smokers will be killed by their habit," European Consumer Affairs Commissioner David Byrne said in a statement.
Research and experience in countries such as Canada and Brazil which have introduced graphic health warnings showed that they worked, Byrne said.
While diehard smokers may not be frightened, those starting to toy with the fatal habit would have second thoughts, the Commission said.
"One hard-hitting picture really does speak more than a thousand words," said Byrne.
The Commission - the executive arm of the European Union - has already taken a string of tough measures to fight tobacco consumption.
New rules set to come into force at the end of this month make it obligatory for cigarette manufacturers to enlarge the size of their health warnings on tobacco packages.
The new large black and white health warnings have to cover at least 30 per cent of the front of cigarette packets and 40 per cent of the back.
The E.U. executive has also banned all smoking on its premises as of 1 May, 2004, the date on which 10 new countries - mainly from central and eastern Europe - will join the bloc.
Officials said the Commission was going to build an central photo library of photographs which could be used to illustrate the damage to health wreaked by cigarettes.
The warnings may also include a "quitline" number for people seeking to kick the tobacco habit.
Copyright 2003 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH