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Call for new warnings on smoking diseases

Saturday 31 May, 2003

With smoking in the spotlight around the world today on World No Tobacco Day, Quit Victoria has called for smokers to be confronted with warnings about diseases caused by smoking where they buy cigarettes.

Quit Victoria Executive Director Todd Harper says the adoption of mandatory warnings about the dangers of smoking at point of sale is an important way to communicate the risks of smoking.

'The Victorian Government introduced legislation requiring tobacco retail outlets to display health warning signs or signs advertising quit programs in July 2001.

'This was a welcome step, and we'd like to see this taken further by updating these warnings as new information comes to light about the diseases caused by smoking.'

'One of the main channels to inform smokers about health risks from smoking is via cigarette packets, and unfortunately health warnings on cigarette packets are hopelessly out of step with current medical evidence.'

There are six health warnings currently printed on cigarette packets that inform smokers about lung cancer, heart disease and the effects of passive smoking on babies and adults. These warnings were last updated in 1995. A review of current cigarette pack warnings was begun by the Federal Government in 2000 and the results are yet to be released.

'Current pack warnings only address the tip of the iceberg in relation to the deadly and debilitating diseases now proven to be caused by smoking,' Mr Harper said.

Mr Harper says research has now established that deadly illnesses such as emphysema, stroke, leukaemia, and cancers of the mouth, nose and throat are caused by smoking.

In addition, smoking has also been found to be a cause of debilitating conditions such as blindness, impotence, and even wrinkles. Around one third of deaths from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) are caused by smoking.

'It's vital that, as consumers, smokers have access to comprehensive, accurate and up-to-date information about the health risks of smoking.'

Mr Harper says research by The Cancer Council Victoria's Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer shows that many smokers are not aware of the range of illnesses associated with smoking.

Research found that less than half of smokers identified lung cancer as an illness caused by smoking, but only 6% of smokers could identify that stroke and vascular disease are caused by smoking. Only 27% of smokers identified emphysema as an illness caused by smoking and the same proportion identified heart disease/heart attack. 13% of smokers could not name any illnesses caused by smoking. In addition, smokers were less likely to mention lung cancer as an illness linked to smoking than either ex-smokers or non-smokers.

'Clearly, we need to do more to educate smokers about the risks of smoking. The adoption of health warnings where cigarettes are sold would ensure that smokers have access to this information in places where they are most likely to see it.'

Possible smoking health warnings at point of sale:

  • Smoking causes emphysema
  • Smoking causes leukemia
  • Smoking is a major cause of stroke
  • Smoking causes cancer of the mouth, lips and throat
  • Smoking can cause blindness
  • Smoking can cause wrinkles
  • Smoking can cause impotence
  • Smoking affects your fitness
  • One third of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome deaths are caused by smoking.
  • Smoking affects your fertility
  • Smoking increases your chance of miscarriage
  • ends

    Further information:
    Zoe Furman
    Media Communications Manager

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