The measures are designed to prevent young people taking up the habit – but some say they are “a declaration of war on consumers”.
Cigarettes are being sold in the UK in standardised green packaging with explicit images from today, under new rules designed to cut the number of smokers.
It comes after the world’s four largest tobacco firms lost a legal challenge against the Government’s new plain packaging rules at the High Court on Thursday.
Pictures showing the harmful effects of smoking must now cover 65% of the front and back of every packet of cigarettes, with extra warnings on the top of the pack.
Packs containing 10 cigarettes will be prohibited under the ruling because the boxes are viewed too small to contain suitable health warnings.
Packaging of hand-rolled tobacco must also be in the same green colour and contain a minimum of 30g of tobacco.
The changes include 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”.
Companies have a year to sell old stock and fully implement the changes under the directive.
Smoking causes an estimated 700,000 premature deaths each year and it is hoped the new rules will reduce the number of smokers across the EU by 2.4 million.
British Lung Foundation chief executive Dr Penny Woods welcomed the measures.
“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,” she said.
“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.”
But Simon Clark, director of the smokers’ group Forest, said the new packaging rules “treat adults like children and teenagers like idiots”.
“Everyone knows the health risks of smoking and no one starts because of the packaging,” he said.
“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.”