Goodbye menthol cigarettes, hello highly scary health warnings on existing cigarette packets. New EU rules will likely mean 75% of the front of a cigarette packet will be given over to new graphic health worries about the dangers of lighting up.

The move follows a similar move from the Australian Government. The end of many famous brands?

EU ban

"Each unit packet," according to draft legislation seen by the Telegraph, "shall carry combined health warnings (picture plus text). The combined warnings shall cover 75 per cent of the external area of both the front and back surface of the packet."

Tobacco companies will likely launch challenges to the move that could see pictures of cancers, rotting teeth and limbs and other strong medical images that show the link between cigarettes and poor health.

Branding worry

It's thought around 700,000 people die from smoking-related illnesses in the EU every year. However tobacco companies are already under pressure from falling cigarette sales, particularly in the EU.

The EU ruling may also affect the sale of smaller packets of cigarettes. "This is plain packaging by the back door," a spokesman for a subsidiary of Imperial Tobacco told the Mail. "By that token it is a deep intrusion into the intellectual property rights and trademark rights of the manufacturer. It destroys brand values that companies have built up over time."

100% move?

But the new law will stop short of forcing plain packaging on all cigarette packets, a development that has been undertaken by the Australians. However individual EU governments will have the freedom to force through 100% plain packaging if they want.

Just how soon the EU ruling could take is uncertain - but it's likely to be on the statute books within two years, after being approved by EU governments and the European Parliament. Scottish shops are also now banned from displaying cigarettes from April. Imperial Tobacco attempted to challenge the ruling but the challenge was unanimously rejected.