Under the new regulations drafted by MEPs, graphic health warnings such as colour photographs of tumours will have to cover 65 per cent packs, meaning the brand name would now appear at the bottom.
This follows a previous announcement by the Government in July that it would delay any decision on introducing plain packs until it had seen how similar schemes worked in other countries.
Current legislation requires that health warnings cover at least 30 per cent of the area of the front of the pack and 40 per cent of the back.
Use of words such as ‘light’, ‘mild’ and ‘low tar’ to describe cigarettes and tobacco will also be outlawed.
The rules must now be agreed by ministers and then voted on again by the European Parliament before they become law in the EU, though it is not expected that many governments will vote against the proposals – only 43 votes out of 620 were against a first-reading agreement with EU ministers.
Alongside the changes to packaging, the European parliament has also voted to ban menthol and other flavoured tobacco by 2022. Packets of 10 cigarettes, and pouches of less than 20 grams of rolling tobacco also face a ban.
Calls for a ban on slim cigarettes were rejected.
A statement from the European Parliament also says that ‘electronic cigarettes should be regulated but as medicinal products only if they claim curative or preventive properties’.
Once the legislation is approved by the Council and Parliament, EU member states will have 18 months in which to translate the directive into their national laws, to run from the date when it enters into force.
The deadline for phasing out flavours in general is three years, with five additional years for menthol (total eight years). Tobacco products that do not comply with the directive will be tolerated on the market for 24 months, and e-cigarettes for 36 months.