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Proposal for graphic warnings on cigarette packs welcome

Monday 2 February, 2004

New warnings must be implemented quickly

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 Government's 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.""

""The proposal for new picture-based health warnings on cigarette packets is very welcome. However, it is important that these proposals are implemented much sooner than has been outlined today. Currently, the Federal Government is saying that if these proposals are approved, they may appear on cigarette packs by June 2005.""

“In that time, around 30,000 Australians will have died from smoking related illnesses, and it will have been 10 years since the introduction of the 6 existing text warnings. Any moves that delay the immediate introduction of accurate, up-to-date information on cigarette packets for consumers are unacceptable.”

“Research has proved unequivocally that many diseases other than lung cancer are caused by smoking – and new diseases and health conditions are added to this growing list regularly. 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.

“This survey conducted by The Cancer Council Victoria found that over half of smokers surveyed felt current warnings should be replaced with graphic picture warnings, and over 80% of smokers said they would approve if larger warnings were introduced,’ Mr Harper said.

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.

“It’s clear that if we want to be serious about encouraging more smokers to quit, new warnings – with graphic photographs – are an important step.”

“Research in Canada, where graphic warnings have been in place for some time, has found that the introduction of new warnings has increased smokers motivation to quit and increased smokers awareness of the health effects of smoking.”
Mr Harper also said it would be important that the Commonwealth Government support the new health warnings with television advertising to encourage smokers to quit.

Members of the public and interested stakeholders can make comments on the proposals released today until March 19.

- ends-

Background information - health warnings in Australia and overseas
There are currently 6 text warnings on cigarette packs:

  • Smoking causes lung cancer
  • Smoking is addictive
  •  Smoking kills
  • Smoking causes heart disease
  • Smoking when pregnant harms your baby
  • Your smoking can harm others

These warnings were introduced in 1995, and take up the entire flip top box area (25% of the front of the pack) and at least 33.3% of the rear of the pack.

Graphic pictures warnings on cigarette packs have been introduced in Canada and Brazil. Images of the health warnings adopted in these countries can be viewed at:

Canada
http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/english/media/photos/tobacco_labelling/index.htm

Brazil
http://www.inca.gov.br/english/cigarrete_packages.html

Further information :
Zoe Furman,
Media Communications Manager

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