November 16, 2004
It is now 2004. For decades, public health authorities have been
telling people that cigarettes are bad. More recently, some have
decided to show smokers just how bad the effects of smoking really
Not everyone thinks this
is a good idea.
of health, Morgan Johansson, has rejected a new EU anti-smoking
campaign that calls on governments to put photographic warnings
on cigarette packs to deter people from smoking. 'I am sceptical
towards the use of photos on cigarette packages and happy with
the written warnings in place today,' the Svenska Dagbladet quoted
her as saying. EU Health Commissioner David Byrne launched an
anti-tobacco campaign last week including 42 graphic pictures
to warn people against smoking. Canada has used similar graphic
imagery and warnings on cigarette packs with some success since
2000. Brazil also has a similar scheme in place."
In the beginning, EU
Health Commissioner David Byrne didn't think that it was a good
Four years ago (in the
year 2000), the EU was still debating the issue:
"The European Union is
moving closer to having bigger and bolder health warnings on cigarette
packs and is considering adding pictures of rotting teeth and
lungs. A directive, which goes before the European Parliament
in Strasbourg on Wednesday, would also mean massive increases
in the size of health warnings and descriptions like 'low tar'
and 'mild' being banned. The new tobacco proposals could transform
the way cigarette packets look, requiring up to 40% of the front
and 50% of the back to be covered with a hard-hitting health warning.
Some MEPs have proposed an amendment to the directive requiring
graphic photos, including tar-stained teeth, to be added to packs.
'If vivid pictures of rotting teeth and blackened lungs bring
home the true cost of smoking, print them on packs in the UK in
full colour,' said Labour MEP and Health Spokeswoman, Catherine
Stihler. But the proposal is opposed by EU Health and Consumer
Protection Commissioner David Byrne."
In 2001, it was decided:
"Health warnings will cover 1/3 of the surface of Europe's
cigarette packs from 2002, following a deal approved by Euro MPs
last night. Key elements of the deal agreed between Euro MPs and
EU Member State Governments include:
*Giant health warning labels on cigarette packs covering 30% of
the front and back of the pack.
*A total ban the use of misleading descriptors such as 'mild'
'light" and 'low tar' (with no exemptions for existing brand
*New EU standards to apply to cigarettes exported from the EU
*New rules on picture health warnings on cigarette packs by the
end of 2002. Commenting on the deal, Euro MP Catherine Stihler,
Labour's Spokesperson on Health in the European Parliament said,
;This is a huge breakthrough for public health. We will now have
labels on cigarette packs which reflect the real cost of smoking.'
... On the use of graphic picture warnings 'Graphic health warnings
pictures are a glaring reminder of what people do to themselves
when they smoke. A picture says a thousand words and these pictures
will save lives.'"
In 2002, it was reported:
"SAO PAULO, Brazil, Jan
28, 2002 (Reuters) - This week, Brazil will become the second
country in the world to attach anti-smoking pictures to cigarette
packages that will remind smokers of the damage they do to their
health every time they light up. The move is the Brazilian government's
latest tough stance against smoking. It made history by banning
cigarette advertisements in newspapers and on television, and
also made it illegal to smoke in public places. Brazil's 30 million
smokers, out of its total population of 170 million, will see
an array of small pictures and messages warning them against their
vice. Included will be an image of a depressed couple in bed,
whose sex life is suffering due to smoking, and a premature baby
being kept alive with tubes as a reminder to parents who smoke.
The existing warnings on packages will be highlighted."
Back to 2004:
The European Commission has launched a series of hard-hitting
images to be used to show the damage smoking can do to people's
health. The graphic images are part of a 72m euro campaign against
smoking. The 42 images show pictures including rotten lungs and
a man with a large tumour on his throat. Individual countries
can decide whether or not to include the images on cigarette packs.
The UK Department of Health has said it will consult over introducing
them. The European Commission is also calling on member states
to implement long-term measures, such as effective regulators,
to tackle smoking levels. Its experts estimate the annual cost
of tobacco related disease in the EU at 100 billion euros a year.
The Commission says picture warnings are set to be introduced
in a number of countries next year, including Ireland and Belgium.
Launching the campaign, David Byrne, EU Commissioner for Health
and Consumer Protection, said: 'People need to be shocked out
of their complacency about tobacco. I make no apology for some
of the pictures we are using.'"
There are still those
who do not think that adding such graphic images is a good idea.
"Simon Clark, director
of the smokers' rights group Forest, said: 'Smokers are well aware
of the health risks of smoking. There's no need to rub their noses
And there are those who
are concerned that smokers will find a way around it.
point out that in Canada smokers took to using special hoods or
covers for their cigarette packages."
There are arguments on
both sides, and then there is the bottom line: "figures from
Canada's Cancer Society showed that of all the smokers that quit
in Canada in 2001, a third said they were influenced by the pictures."
So, what's next for 2005?
"Health groups have welcomed the release today of a proposal
by the Federal Government to replace existing health warnings
on cigarette packets. However, Quit Victoria say the proposed
new warnings - including 14 new messages which would be accompanied
by graphic pictures of the damages caused by smoking - need to
be implemented much sooner than the Governments proposed
date of 2005. Mr. Harper also welcomed the news that the Quitline
number would be included on cigarette packs under the proposed
new measures. 'We expect this initiative will result in more smokers
seeking help to quit. This is a very effective way to provide
information to smokers, because the average smoker would handle
their cigarette pack up to 20 or 30 times a day. ... Smokers don't
fully understand all of the health risks of smoking. It is absolutely
vital that smokers have access to this information, which may
help them make the decision to quit smoking.' Mr Harper said there
was clear evidence that graphic warnings would help smokers quit,
and would be supported by smokers. Mr Harper said research conducted
by The Cancer Council Victoria in 2001 found that smokers themselves
support the introduction of stronger warnings....
The survey also found:
* 90% of smokers approved of health warnings taking up the whole
of the back of cigarette packets, and
* 56% of smokers said graphic warnings were more likely to make
them quit smoking.
There are smokers and
public health officials on both sides of the issue. Where do you
stand? Before you decide, it may help to see some of the Brazilian
images with their captions. You can go to the site listed with
the following quote, but please keep in mind: while these images
are shown smaller than the actual ones which will be included
on cigarette packs in some parts of the world, some are still
quite graphic. Among the new illustrations, the packs will also
depict one mouth and one lung affected by the cancer, one fetus
aborted, one necrosed leg, in addition to rats and cockroaches
dead by arsenic and naphthalene, substances present in the cigarette.
The resolution requires that the images have a black background.
Have the images changed
"The American Cancer
Society (ACS) holds the Great American Smokeout each November
to help smokers quit cigarettes for at least one day, in hopes
they will quit forever. This year's event will be held on November
Questions of the Week:
Should graphic images be included with the warnings on packs of
cigarettes sold in your country? In your state? Do you think having
these images on every pack would keep some people from starting
to smoke in the first place? How do you think the addition of
these images would affect any of your friends and/ or family members
who currently smoke? How do you think the children of smokers
would be affected by seeing these images? How would/ do these
images affect you?
Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.
I look forward to reading
what you have to say.
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum