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Last Updated: Friday, 26 May 2006, 23:25 GMT 00:25 UK
Graphic images to deter smokers
Cigarette packet warning on smoking
Pictures warning of the dangers of smoking will appear on packets
The public are being asked to choose a series of picture warnings to appear on cigarette packets from next year.

People can give their opinion on a range of images designed to highlight the dangers of smoking on a website set up by the Department of Health.

Evidence shows that images have a greater impact than written health warnings alone, and they have already been introduced in some countries.

Images include diseased lungs, a dying smoker and a foetus in the womb.

People visiting the website will be able to choose images to support 14 health messages such as 'Smoking causes fatal lung cancer' or Smoking may reduce blood flow and causes impotence'.

The final images will cover 40% of the back of packets sold from autumn 2007.

"This measure will help deglamorise cigarette packs and let people know what they really get from smoking"
Jean King, Cancer Research UK

Launching the consultation, Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt, said: "We have already made a lot of progress with the stark written warnings on cigarette packs.

"However, these messages become less effective over time so we now need to refresh our approach by introducing new hard-hitting images.

"We know that these type of warnings have already been successful in other countries such as Canada, Singapore and Brazil.

Cigarette packet warning on smoking
Experts hope the images will have a big impact

The government promised it would introduce picture warnings on cigarette packs in its Choosing Health White Paper in 2004.

Graphic pictures

Jean King, Cancer Research UK's director of tobacco control, said: "The evidence from Canada, Brazil and elsewhere is clear - graphic picture warnings inform people of the risks of smoking and help encourage people to reduce their smoking or quit altogether.

"They also help minimise uptake by young people. This measure will help deglamorise cigarette packs and let people know what they really get from smoking."

Amanda Sandford, spokesperson for anti-smoking charity ASH welcomed the move but said the images should be displayed on the front, not the back, of the pack.

"The point of this is to deter people from buying them, especially young people, and they need to be visible at the point of sale.

Cigarette packet warning on smoking
The warnings could encourage smokers to quit

"Evidence from countries where the pictures are already in place shows it has a strong impact on smokers - for every purchase smokers are reminded of the health consequences of smoking."

Dr Charmaine Griffiths spokesperson for the British Heart Foundation said: "We welcome this consultation as we know that graphic images can and do prompt people to take steps to quit smoking, as BHF's successful 'fatty cigarette' campaign clearly demonstrated."

Professor John Britton, Chair of the Royal College of Physicians Tobacco Advisory Group, also welcomed the announcement.

He said: "It is well recognised that strong images conveying the health impacts of smoking have a powerful effect on motivating smokers to quit. This simple initiative will save thousands of lives."

Simon Clark, director of the smokers' lobby group Forest, said he was strongly opposed to graphic warnings as smokers were well aware of the dangers of smoking.

"The proposed images are gratuitously offensive and yet another example of smokers being singled out for special attention.

"What about fatty foods, dairy products or alcohol? If they're going to target tobacco, there should be graphic warnings on other products too."

Some of the images that may be put on packets

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