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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 May, 2003, 11:27 GMT 12:27 UK
New cigarette warnings 'working'
Stubbing out
Many smokers want to quit

Graphic new warnings on cigarette packs have triggered a big increase in calls to the NHS Smoking Helpline.

Over 10,000 people said they were driven to call by the new labels during the first four months of 2003 - an increase of 12% in helpline call levels.

The new warnings were introduced in January following a European Union directive which stipulated health warning messages should cover 30% of the front of cigarette packets and 40% of the back.

A thick, black border adds a further 10% to the area given over to the warnings.

All cigarette packets must carry the warnings by September 2003.

New warnings
Smoking can cause a slow and painful death
Smoking clogs the arteries and causes heart attacks and strokes
Smoking when pregnant harms your baby
Smoking may reduce the blood flow and causes impotence
Smoking can damage the sperm and decreases fertility

Hazel Blears, Public Health Minister said: "It is very encouraging that our measures are already having such a positive effect, with thousands of people wanting to quit.

"The packs carried warnings before, but we know that the larger and starker the message, the more effective it is.

"People had become so used to the old health messages, especially because of tobacco companies' carefully crafted, slick designs, that they missed the message that cigarettes are deadly."

Marie Murray, a NHS Smoking Helpline advisor, said: "We have received a number of calls recently from people really frightened because they didn't realise all the toxic chemicals that are contained in smoke or that smoking could make you age faster or even make you impotent.

"Although many callers are already aware of the health risks of their habit it can be easy to forget just how harmful smoking is.

"The new warnings have really hit a nerve with people and have played a significant role over the last few months in prompting thousands of smokers to take their first step towards quitting by picking up the phone to the helpline."

Legislation banning cigarette in-pack promotions comes into effect this week.

These in-pack promotions encouraged smokers to buy more cigarettes to collect coupons, which could then be exchanged for goods.

One in four callers to the NHS Smoking Helpline successfully give up one year later.

The NHS Smoking Helpline number is 0800 169 0 169.

Countdown to tobacco ad ban
14 Feb 03  |  Health

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