Graphic images defended

| August 18, 2017

The EU Commission has ruled out the possibility that any of the graphic warnings appearing on tobacco products sold within the EU could contain the pictures of people who haven’t given their consent for their images to be used in this way.

The Commission was replying to three questions raised by the Danish member of the EU parliament, Christel Schaldemose.

In a preamble to her questions, Schaldemose said that on June 15 the Danish local newspaper Folketidende had reported the story of a distraught woman who believed she could recognise her late husband in one of the pictures introduced under the 2014 Tobacco Products Directive. And there had been instances of similar stories from other member states.

‘The Commission has in the past given assurances that any similarity to other persons who have not given their consent is purely coincidental, but nonetheless the pictures are distressing for those affected,’ she said.

Schaldemose then asked:

  1. ‘Can the Commission guarantee that everyone depicted has given their consent to the use of the pictures for this specific purpose under the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation?
  2. ‘In the Commission’s view, do the pictures give rise to ethical concerns vis-à-vis the bereaved who believe they can recognise their late family members?
  3. ‘Does the Commission have any plans to replace those pictures which raise doubts about the identity of the person depicted?’

In what appeared to be a utilitarian defense of its position, the Commission said that tobacco was the biggest cause of preventable death in the EU and picture health warnings had been proven to be extremely effective in preventing smoking uptake and encouraging people to quit.

‘The Commission would like to assure that it has taken great care to ensure that the production of the photographic images used as pictorial health warnings has been carefully documented and that all individuals depicted in the library of health warnings set out in Annex II to the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) were fully informed of the use of their image and gave their consent to such use,’ the Commission said. ‘The information on the development of the pictorial health warnings is available on the Commission website.

‘While the Commission has the utmost sympathy for individuals who genuinely believe that persons depicted on the tobacco packages are family members, and to whom the pictures might have inadvertently caused distress, the Commission underlines that any claim according to which the image of an individual would have been used without his or her consent is unfounded.

‘There are no plans to update the picture library in the very near future. However, the TPD foresees the possibility to adapt the text and picture warnings based on scientific and market developments.’

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Category: Breaking News, Harm reduction, People, Regulation

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