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Graphic health warnings start to appear on tobacco products

Sunday 12 February, 2006

New graphic health warnings on cigarette packets are expected to motivate an unprecedented number of Australian smokers to kick the habit.

The first set of warnings are due to appear from March 1 this year, however some tobacco products are already displaying the graphic images including pictures of mouth cancer and also a gangrenous foot caused by peripheral vascular disease.

Executive Director of Quit, Mr Todd Harper, said graphic warning labels on cigarettes play a vital role not only in prompting a quit attempt, but also in preventing relapse.

"Research illustrates that warning labels encourage smokers both to quit, and then to stay smokefree," said Mr Harper.

"Considering the average 14-a-day smoker will be exposed to new graphic health warnings more than 5000 times a year, there is no doubt their introduction opens a massive window of opportunity to get smoking rates down in Australia."

Mr Harper said that a decrease in smoking rates would have a tremendously positive impact on the entire health system in Australia.

"Healthcare costs and hospitalisations would take a welcome dive if a modest drop in smoking rates were achieved"

"This year, a study, authored by Associate Professor Susan Hurley for The Cancer Council Victoria's VicHealth Centre for Tobacco Control, indicated that over 3000 heart attack hospitalisations and over 1000 stroke hospitalisations could be avoided, and over $60 million in health care costs saved, if smoking rates fell by 1% every year for the next five years."

Graphic health warnings also play an essential part in communicating the health risks associated with smoking to the broader community.

"Many diseases other than lung cancer are caused by smoking – and new diseases and health conditions are added to this growing list regularly, yet smokers don't fully understand all of the health risks of smoking."

"We would hope that the graphic health warnings will address this problem to some extent, given that every time a smoker buys a pack of cigarettes they will be exposed explicitly to the harms of smoking, and then once again, each time they reach for a cigarette." 

Mr Harper said along with graphic health warnings, mass media campaigns are a vital ingredient in any effort to get Australian smoking rates down.

"It is very important that in forthcoming years Governments invest more in mass media quit campaigns to encourage smokers to quit,"

"Yesterday, State and Commonwealth leaders agreed to spend  $500million to prevent lifestyle diseases as part of a package of reforms agreed to at the Council of Australian Government's (COAG) meeting."

"We welcome the announcement, and the commitment of Government to ensure that tobacco and the devastation it causes remains a priority public health issue in Australia."

"Long-term media campaigns that highlight the dangers of smoking and provide smokers with encouragement to call the Quitline are very effective. If such initiatives are supported on both a State and Federal level we can make real inroads to ease the burden of tobacco," said Mr. Harper.

IF YOU WOULD LIKE ASSISTANCE TO QUIT SMOKING CALL THE QUITLINE ON 13 7848.

ends

Edwina Vellar,
Media Manager
ph: (03) 9635 5400
mob: 0417 303 811
email:
Edwina.Vellar@cancervic.org.au

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