Images on tobacco products to raise awareness of smoking dangers

In collaboration with the Press Association

Cancer Research UK has welcomed news that all cigarette packets sold in the UK will soon carry graphic images showing the dangers of smoking.

Health minister Alan Johnson confirmed today (August 29th) that the UK would become the first country in the EU to place visual warnings on tobacco products in a bid to increase awareness of the dangers associated with smoking.

Research has shown that smoking is the single biggest cause of cancer in the world, causing nine in ten cases of lung cancer and accounting for one in four UK cancer deaths.

As of autumn 2008, manufacturers will have to display images on all cigarette packages, and the regulations will be extended to all other tobacco products the following year.

Mr Johnson said that the 15 images, which were chosen following market research and a public vote and include images of diseased lungs, represent "the next vital step in reducing the number of people who smoke".

"We are committed to continuing to drive down smoking rates in the UK as smoking remains the number one cause of ill health and early death," he insisted.

"We have already made a lot of progress with stark written warnings on cigarette packs," the minister continued.

"Today's announcement, together with the introduction of the smokefree law last month and our plans to raise the legal age of sale for tobacco products, will potentially save thousands of lives and others will be spared the misery of watching family and friends die prematurely from smoke-related illnesses."

The move was also heralded by the chief medical officer Sir Liam Donaldson, who pointed out that reducing the number of people who smoke "will also free significant NHS staff and facilities to treat other conditions that are harder to prevent".

Elspeth Lee, senior tobacco control manager at Cancer Research UK, said: "Cancer Research UK welcomes the introduction of picture warnings on cigarette packets and we hope this is a step towards the plain, generic packing of all tobacco products.

"International evidence shows that graphic picture warnings lead to greater awareness of the risks associated with smoking and help encourage people to cut down or quit altogether."

Ms Lee pointed out that the images would need to be updated on a regular basis in order to prevent 'image fatigue'.

"We also hope that the images will soon feature on the front of cigarette packets so that they are visible at the point of sale, and not just after purchase," she added.