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.

Bbc news – e-cigarettes face new restrictions

The best electronic cigarette brands of 2014

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of ASH, said “MHRA regulation can ensure that adult smokers can continue to be able to buy e cigarettes as easily as tobacco, but promotion to children or non smokers will be prohibited.”

Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies said with more people using e cigarettes it was only right that the products were properly regulated to be safe and work effectively.

“Smokers are harmed by the deadly tar and toxins in tobacco smoke, not the nicotine,” she said.

“While it’s best to quit completely, I realise that not every smoker can and it is much better to get nicotine from safer sources such as nicotine replacement therapy.”

Manufacturers of e cigarettes say the products have the potential to save lives and should not be restricted.

Adrian Everrett, chief executive officer of E Lites, told the BBC “So far not one person globally has been killed by an electronic cigarette and yet every 5 minutes in this country alone someone dies from tobacco use.

“To remove or restrict the use or availability of the electronic cigarette from this market would be a significant health loss.”

Once licensed, e cigarettes are expected to remain on sale over the counter in the UK.

In some countries, such as New Zealand, e cigarettes are regulated as medicines and can be purchased only in pharmacies.

In other countries, including Denmark, Canada and Australia, they are subject to restrictions on sale, import and marketing. Complete bans are in place in Brazil, Norway and Singapore.

Dr Mike Knapton, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, said more research was needed into the potential health implications of long term nicotine use.

“The MHRA has rightly addressed the worrying dearth of regulation around nicotine containing products and electronic cigarettes an important step to ensuring their safety,” he said.

“Marketing of these products must now be closely monitored to ensure non smokers and children don’t end up using them.”