UK: Picture Warnings On Tobacco Packets

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Graphic images illustrating the devastating effects that tobacco can have on health will be printed on all tobacco packets from next year.

The 15 images to be used were chosen following a consultation in 2006, market research and a public vote. The move makes the UK the first country in the EU to introduce such visual warnings on all tobacco products aimed at raising awareness, helping smokers who want to quit and further reducing smoking related illnesses.

Alan Johnson said:

"Picture warnings are the next vital step 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 smokefree 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."

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The Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson said:

"I am delighted that the UK is introducing picture warnings on tobacco packs. This will help promote better awareness of the damage that smoking does to lives and families, an essential step towards reducing the number of people who start smoking. It will also free significant NHS staff and facilities to treat other conditions that are harder to prevent".

Elspeth Lee, senior tobacco control manager at Cancer Research UK, said:

"Cancer Research UK welcomes the introduction of picture warnings on cigarette packets and 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."

During the consultation, for each message there was a choice of three pictures. The public and stakeholders were asked to register their view of the most effective warnings.

This announcement comes out of a commitment in the Choosing Health White Paper to introduce picture warnings on cigarette packs. The bank of images were developed by the European Commission in line with the 2001 Labelling Directive. This allowed member states to choose which images should be used and when they should be introduced.

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