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Summary of the decision in case 1487/2016/EIS on the European Commission’s response to a complaint alleging that disabled persons are being stigmatised by a picture warning used on tobacco products

Available languages: en
  • Case: 1487/2016/EIS
    Opened on 11 Jul 2017 - Decision on 11 Jul 2017
  • Institution(s) concerned: European Commission

The case concerned the European Commission’s response to a complaint alleging that disabled persons are being stigmatised by a picture warning used on tobacco products.

The complainant, the Ombudsman for Social Matters and Head of the Anti-discrimination Office of Schleswig-Holstein in Germany, alleged that the picture, which shows a person in a wheelchair alongside a text stating ’smoking causes strokes and disability’, portrays people with disabilities in a bad light. The picture in question is one of a range of such pictures provided by the Commission.

The Commission explained that the purpose of the pictures is to inform people about the risks of smoking. It added that the pictures were selected following a very strict selection procedure.

The Ombudsman inquired into the issue and found the Commission’s explanation, overall, to be reasonable. She decided therefore that further inquiries into the complaint are not justified at this stage. However, she also understands that the publication of such pictures could be perceived negatively by persons with disabilities and by organisations representing them. Accordingly, the Ombudsman believes that, for the future, and in order to strike the best possible balance between the different interests at stake, it would be helpful to consult appropriate civil society groups regarding the choice of sensitive images before they become publicly available.