The measures will strengthen and update current EU rules from 2001 on how tobacco products can be manufactured, presented and sold in the European Union.
Presenting the proposals in Brussels, European Commissioner in charge of Health & Consumer Policy, Tonio Borg said: "Consumers must not be cheated: Tobacco products should look and taste like tobacco products and this proposal ensures that attractive packaging and flavourings are not used as a marketing strategy".
He added: "The figures speak for themselves: tobacco kills half of its users and is highly addictive. With 70 per cent of the smokers starting before the age of 18, the ambition of today's proposal is to make tobacco products and smoking less attractive and thus discourage tobacco initiation among young people".
Under the proposals packets of cigarettes and roll-your-own tobacco will have to contain a combined picture and text health warning covering 75 per cent of the front and back of packs. In addition, the current information on tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide, often perceived as misleading, will be replaced by a more informative message on the side of packs that tobacco smoke contains more than 70 cancer causing substances.
The use of characterising "strong" flavours in cigarettes, roll-your-own tobacco and smokeless tobacco products will be banned, and so will any products with an increased toxicity and addictiveness.
The revisions to the 2001 Tobacco Products Directive also include regulating cross-border internet sales and technical features to combat illicit trade. Chewing and nasal tobacco will be subject to specific labelling and ingredient regulations and for the first time measures will be introduced for e-cigarettes and herbal products. The existing ban for oral tobacco (snus) will be maintained.
The proposal will now be discussed by MEPs and member states' government ministers. It is expected to be adopted in 2014 and would come into effect from 2015-2016.