Tobacco companies lobbied European lawmakers heavily to dilute the new rules, and some changes made at the last minute weakened an earlier proposal. But the guidelines still represent a big improvement from current European rules. Lawmakers will now negotiate the changes with national governments and the European Commission before final rules are approved next year.

European lawmakers voted to increase the size of the warning labels on cigarette packs to 65 percent of the front and back of packs, up from 40 percent now. By contrast, warning labels in the United States are small text boxes that appear on the sides. A 2009 law instructed the Food and Drug Administration to require graphic warning labels that covered half of the front and back of cigarette packs, but after losing a court case on a set of labels, the F.D.A. has not yet come up with replacements.

The European Parliament also voted to ban flavored cigarettes three years after the rules are finalized and menthol cigarettes after eight years. The 2009 American law banned flavored cigarettes but left a decision on menthol to the F.D.A., which has not yet proposed any regulations. Studies have shown that flavored cigarettes make smoking more appealing to kids and young people and make it harder for addicted smokers to quit.

The most controversial part of the European rules concerned electronic cigarettes, the battery powered devices that people use to inhale nicotine vapors. These devices are safer than conventional cigarettes because they do not contain carcinogens and other toxic substances from burning tobacco. But nicotine in any form is highly addictive and can be dangerous, especially to young people. Under pressure from the makers of e cigarettes, European lawmakers rejected a proposal to regulate those products as drug delivery devices. But they did vote to confine their sale to adults and applied the same marketing and advertising rules to these products that apply to conventional cigarettes a significant improvement.

Only 23 American states have banned the sale of e cigarettes to people younger than 18, according to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids. The F.D.A. has said it intends to regulate these devices as tobacco products, but after years of studying the issue, it has not done so.

More than 700,000 Europeans and more than 440,000 Americans die from smoking related illnesses every year. Lawmakers in Europe have taken some important steps United States regulators should do the same.

Eu looks to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes

Craven a cigarette expiration date :: buy european cigarettes

Australian plain cigarette packaging features graphic warnings.

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.