Brexit – an unexpected impact on cigarette pack picture warnings

Brexit - an unexpected impact on cigarette pack picture warningsIn order to be prepared for any outcomes, including a “no deal” Brexit (a scenario in which the UK leaves the EU without agreement)  the British government published on Thursday, August 16 a set of technical guidelines  outlining the risks of a “no deal” outcome.  The guidelines are intended to help businesses and individuals to get ready for the impact of a “no deal” scenario.

Although the 24 guidelines contain many topics, the government is planning to release 80 guidelines in total. Among other topics, the guidelines cover the issue of tobacco legislation.

 The EU Member States are subject to EU Directive 2014/40 / EU “Tobacco Products” which regulates the manufacturing, distribution and sale of tobacco products in the EU. In the event of a “no deal” Brexit, the “tobacco products” legislation will no longer be applicable in the United Kingdom. It will be replaced by a UK legislation, which would contain minor amendments to the existing UK domestic law introduced in 2016.

However, another related issue remains unclarified, namely the graphic photo warnings that appear on cigarette packets, since the EU owns the copyrights for the photo warnings currently in use.  In order to use copyrighted images, a copyrights owner’s permission is required.  The “Tobacco Products” Directive grants the right to use the images on cigarette packets to the Member States, which makes the image bank of more than 40 photos unavailable to non-Members. In case of a “no deal” scenario, new UK images for cigarette packets will have to be introduced. In its’ notice regarding labelling tobacco products, the UK government states just that – tobacco manufacturers need to ensure that new picture warnings appear on tobacco products after Exit Day.

The tobacco products notice outlines the course of action that will need to be taken in the event of a “no deal” scenario. In September the UK Government will publish more technical details of the new regulation and the picture warnings that will minimize the burden associated with introduction of modifications. New information about the images used in the tobacco picture warnings will therefore be available when the new legislation is passed.