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12 January 2011
Brussels, Belgium

Convincing international research findings on the effect of generic cigarette packs

The Association of European Cancer Leagues (ECL) and the Belgian Foundation against Cancer call for the introduction of plain packaging for tobacco products in the revision of the 2001 EU Tobacco Products Directive

Six studies in three EU countries conclude that plain cigarette packaging is less attractive, reduce the promotional appeal of the packs and enhances the visibility of the health warnings.

Tobacco Products Directive under review

The 2001 EU Tobacco Products Directive is under review. This Directive regulates the content and labeling of tobacco products in the EU. The European Commission is exploring the merits of introducing plain packaging as part of the revision of the Directive. Last year already the Australian government decided to introduce legislation to make plain packaging mandatory on all tobacco products as of 2012.

What is plain packaging?

Plain packaging includes the removal of all attractive promotional aspects on tobacco product packaging. Except for the brand name (which would be presented in a standardized way), all other trademarks, logos, color schemes and graphics would be prohibited. The package itself would be required to be plain colored and to display only information (such as health warnings) required by law.

The impact of plain packaging

To find out, the Belgian Foundation against Cancer recently commissioned qualitative research on the opinions and attitudes of young people towards plain packaging in Belgium (Professor Guido Van Hal, University of Antwerp). Other qualitative and quantitative research projects were carried out independently by Dr Karine Gallopel-Morvan, University of Rennes, in France and by Crawford Moodie, University of Stirling, in Scotland, during the last three years.

These six research projects, conducted by university teams in three EU countries using different methodologies with young and adult people, smokers and non-smokers, all came to the same convincing findings:

  • Plain cigarette packs are less attractive than the current ones
  • Plain cigarette packs reduce the promotional appeal of the packs
  • Plain cigarette packs enhance the visibility of the health warnings.





Therefore, the researchers of the three universities conclude that plain packaging is very likely to influence the intentional behaviour to prevent or stop smoking.

The call of for plain tobacco product packaging at EU level

Tobacco labelling is a EU competence. Both the Belgian Foundation against Cancer and the Association of European Cancer Leagues call for the introduction of plain packaging as part of the revision of the EU Tobacco Products Directive. “It is unacceptable that a carcinogenic product, such as tobacco, still is sold in such an appealing package”, says Luk Joossens, ECL tobacco control expert, “The research findings from three EU countries are very convincing: plain packages make cigarettes less attractive, certainly among young people. Plain packaging therefore would mean an enormous step forward in our fight against smoking. It would be difficult to argue against such a proposal which makes cigarettes less appealing to youngsters.”



The Belgian Foundation against Cancer unites the forces in the battle against cancer. The Foundation is active in entire Belgium. Every year 60 000 people are struck by cancer. 

The Foundation finances scientific research in Belgium and provides information and social aid to people with cancer and their close ones. Besides that, the Foundation also engages in cancer prevention, detection and the promotion of a healthy way of life.

The income of the Foundation is mainly provided by gifts and legacies from individuals. In 2009 the Foundation had an income of 20.6 million euros. We spent 5.5 million on funding for scientific research, over 3.6 million on social and material aid and 3.7 million on information and health promotion. -  Kankerfoon 0800 15 802  -  Tabak Stop Lijn 0800 111 00 -


The Association of European Cancer Leagues (ECL) is a non-profit, non-governmental organisation representing national and regional cancer leagues in the wider Europe. Strategically located in Brussels, ECL's main role is to facilitate the collaboration between cancer leagues throughout Europe and to influence EU and pan-European policies.  The central purpose of ECL is to identify and promote common strategies in cancer control toward achieving health equity in cancer prevention, treatment and services.

The major fields of activity of member cancer leagues include cancer prevention, public information, professional education and assistance, as well as information services and rehabilitation for patients and their families and relatives, participation in, and support for, cancer research.

ECL is the permanent partner of the European Conference on Tobacco or Health (ECToH -, with the next ECToH taking place 27-30 March 2011 in Amsterdam.

The Association of European Cancer Leagues (ECL)
479, chaussée de Louvain
1030 Brussels, Belgium
Tel.: +32 2 256 2000, fax: +32 2 256 2003


Download the Press Release in PDF

Fact Sheets and presentations from the Press Conference 12 January 2011:

Fact sheet plain packaging Belgium

Fact sheet plain packaging France

Fact sheet plain packaging Scotland

Introduction to the plain packaging debate presentation           

Plain packaging Belgium presentation

Plain packaging France presentation

Plain packaging Scotland presentation




 The Association of European Cancer Leagues implements activities which receive financial support from the European Commission under an Operating Grant from the European Union's Health Programme (2014-2020). The views expressed on our website and reports do not necessarily reflect the official views of the EU institutions.
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