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31 May 2009

Gruesome pics help fight tobacco

Pictures of rotting lungs, miscarried foetuses and bleeding brains should be put on all tobacco packages as they are effective in preventing tobacco use.

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Pictures of rotting lungs, miscarried foetuses and bleeding brains should be put on all tobacco packages as they are effective in preventing tobacco use, the World Health Organisation said Friday.

"Today, WHO urged governments to require that all tobacco packages include pictorial warnings to show the sickness and suffering caused by tobacco use," said the UN health agency in a statement.

It asked for the pictorial warnings to be plastered on "all main faces of the pack so that the warnings will be visible no matter which side of the pack is displayed at retail." And it asked countries not to shy away from using shocking images.

Greater impact
"More graphic images are considered to have a greater impact and to be more likely to lead to behavioural change," it said.

Graphic warnings showing illnesses caused by tobacco have been put on cigarette packs in countries such as Brazil, Canada, Singapore and Thailand. Studies have indicated that they help smokers to quit and also prevent others from picking up the habit, according to the UN health agency, which launched its own explicit poster campaign for World No Tobacco Day on May 31.

One WHO poster combined the picture of bleeding brains with the warning "smoking causes brain strokes" while the picture of rotting gums comes with the warning "tobacco causes mouth diseases."

"Effective health warnings, especially those that include pictures, have been proven to motivate users to quit and to reduce the appeal of tobacco for those who are not yet addicted," said the WHO.

9 out of 10 have no access
However, the health agency complained that nine out of 10 people in the world have no access to such warnings. "This represents a tragic underuse of a simple, cost-effective strategy that can vastly reduce tobacco use and save lives," said Marc Danzon, WHO Regional Director for Europe.

The WHO estimates that tobacco kills more than five million people every year, but that such deaths could be prevented. "In order to survive, the tobacco industry needs to divert attention from the deadly effects of its products," said Douglas Bettcher, Director of WHO's Tobacco Free Initiative. – (Sapa-AFP, May 2009)

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