29/08/2007

Graphic Warnings For Cigarette Packs

Graphic images illustrating the damage that tobacco can do to smokers' health are to be printed on the packaging of all tobacco products from next year, the government has announced.

Fifteen images, including one of diseased lungs, were selected to be used alongside text warnings on tobacco products, following a consultation last year, market research and a public vote.

Manufacturers will have to start using the images from October next year.

The move makes the UK the first country in the European Union to introduce visual warnings on tobacco products.

The Department of Health said that the introduction of the visual warnings in other countries such as Canada and Brazil had proved to be effective at raising awareness of the risks of smoking.

Health Secretary Alan Johnson said: "Picture warnings are the next vital in reducing the number of people who smoke. We are committed to continuing to drive down smoking rates in the UK as smoking remains the number one cause of ill health and early death.

"We have already made a lot of progress with stark written warnings on cigarette packs. Today's announcement, together with the introduction of the smoke-free law last month and our plans to raise the legal age of sale for tobacco products will potentially save thousands of lives and others will be spared the misery of watching family and friends die prematurely from smoke-related illnesses."

Cancer Research UK has welcomed the move. Elspeth Lee, senior tobacco control manager, said: "We hope this is a step towards the plain, generic packing of all tobacco products. International evidence shows that graphic picture warnings lead to greater awareness of the risks associated with smoking and help encourage people to cut down or quit altogether."

However, smokers' lobby group Forest criticised the decision, claiming that smokers were being victimised.

The move comes weeks after England became the last part of the UK to introduce a smoking ban in enclosed public places and a month before the minimum age for buying tobacco rises from 16 to 18 in England and Wales.

(KMcA/SP)

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