Reports contained within technical papers issued in August by the government’s Department for Exiting the European Union revealed that the UK would be unable to use the European Commission copyrighted medically approved photographic images that currently appear on packs and pouches to indicate the dangers of smoking.
A document published by the government earlier this week said: “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.
“There will be one set of pictures from exit day and therefore there will be no rotations between sets, as is currently the case (the EU picture library features three sets of 14 pictures, rotated on an annual basis).
“The government intends to publish further guidance in relation to cropping and sizing of the images to ensure that the Australian images can be easily adapted by the industry and will conform to existing legislative requirements in relation to image and pack size.”
Tobacco manufacturers have been required to put the graphic images on their packaging in the UK since 2009.
Mike Ridgway, director of the Consumer Packaging Manufacturers Alliance (CPMA), said he believed that if a Brexit deal with the EU is agreed on then it is likely the European Commission’s images will continue to be used in the UK.
“I think there are a whole lot of things that would get ticked off if there was an agreement and, though I’m not certain, I’m sure the civil servants are working on that at this moment in time.”
He added: “The regulation on those warnings was generated by the EU to start with, when graphical health warnings were first used in 2009 – plain packaging didn’t come in until 2017.”
The effect of plain packaging regulations on print has been substantial, with the UK’s last two tobacco packaging manufacturers – Amcor in Bristol and MPS in Bradford – closing in 2016.
The majority of UK tobacco packs are now printed in European countries including Germany and Austria.
Ridgway said that, in the event of the UK needing to change the imagery on its packs in a no-deal scenario, “for the big brands the printers would have to remake all of their cylinders to accommodate”.