Making a Difference in Cancer Prevention and Control
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Here are ECL's ten reasons that justify the need to inform smokers through the use of pictorial warnings on tobacco products. The full document with references can be downloaded here.
1) Eye-catching: this is in line with the saying that "a picture paints a thousand words" and the general belief that an image can often be more powerful than words on a page.
2) Informative: research in four countries showed that in Canada, where pictorial warnings include information about the risks of impotence, smokers were almost three times more likely to agree that smoking causes impotence compared to smokers from the US, UK and Australia.
3) Additional motivation for smokers who want to stop smoking: 44% of smokers in Canada said the pictorial warnings increased their motivation to quit smoking.
4) Less attractive for youngsters: 48% of Belgian smokers aged 15 to 17 think the new warnings make the packaging look less attractive.
5) Improves a comprehensive tobacco advertising ban: tobacco packs are promotional vehicles. Pictorial health warnings are an important step towards the implementation of generic packaging (packs without promotion). Both of these approaches are in line with the intention of banning any form of tobacco promotion.
6) Vehicle to provide useful information on how to quit: Australia, Brazil, New Zealand and Singapore include a quit line telephone number on the package. In most European countries the quit-line number is only mentioned in one of 14 health warnings on tobacco products. Half of the smokers in Belgium would like the quit-line number to be printed on all tobacco products. In Switzerland, the national quit line number will have to be included on all packages of tobacco products.
7) Important element of a comprehensive tobacco control policy: pictorial health warnings on tobacco products make the product less attractive and target smokers by providing them with information on tobacco-related health risks. They are an essential component of a comprehensive tobacco control programme.
8) Legally feasible: according to the Tobacco Products Directive (2001/37/EC), EU member states are allowed to use pictorial health warnings on tobacco products. The use of pictorial warnings has to follow the mandatory guidance set by the Commission Decision of 5 September 2003 regarding the use of colour photographs or other illustrations as health warnings on tobacco packages (2003/641/EC).
9) Technically feasible: pictorial health warnings on tobacco products exist already in fifteen countries.
10) Low cost for Governments: pictorial health warnings represent a cost for the tobacco industry, but almost not for governments.