Graphic pictures showing the dangers of smoking are to be printed on cigarette packs in an attempt to shock smokers into kicking the habit, the British government said on Wednesday.
The images, including a cancerous lung and diseased gums, will vividly illustrate the impact of smoking on health.
They will become mandatory on packs from the end of next year.
Pictures effective in Canada
Fifteen pictures were chosen after public consultation and a vote, and follow a similar scheme in Canada where research shows it has been effective in raising awareness about the risks associated with smoking.
British Health Secretary Alan Johnson said the pictures were "pretty graphic".
"When we give a message that smoking kills, we actually show what it does to your lungs," he told Sky News.
Cigarette packs already carry text warnings, which will remain, but Johnson said the Canadian experience shows that "if you can illustrate that, it has a much more graphic effect - it lets people see the actual ramifications and helps them make the decision to give up smoking".
5 000 lives might be saved per year
Professor Robert West of Cancer Research said between 5 000 and 10 000 smokers a year may give up as a result of the images.
"That will save between 2 500 and 5 000 lives a year," he told BBC Radio.
The move follows England's July 1 ban on smoking in enclosed public spaces and comes ahead of a move to raise the minimum age for buying tobacco from 16 to 18.
The anti-smoking campaign group ASH said it was pleased the pictures would be applied all tobacco products.
Belgium has picture warnings, but only on cigarettes, while Romania and Finland plan to put them on cigarettes next year, ASH said.
Smokers being victimised
But Neil Rafferty, spokesman for the smokers' lobby group Forest, said the move "victimised" smokers.
"There are already plenty of warnings out there," he said.
"You could use the same argument on alcohol bottles or junk food, but the government will not do that because it would offend the majority. Smokers are an easy target." - (Avril Ormsby/Reuters)
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