Cigarette packs image photo warnings - Irish Cancer Society
February 1, 2013

Printing of graphic warnings on cigarette packs begin today

A law passed in 2011 means that from today (February 1st), tobacco companies will have to print photographic health warnings on cigarette packets. The warnings, ranging from a photo of a tumour growing from a man’s throat to a picture showing how smoking ages the skin, will help to make smoking less attractive, says the Irish Cancer Society.

The Irish Cancer Society believes the warnings will motivate many smokers to think about quitting. Research shows that 70% of smokers in Ireland want to quit and that effective health warnings, especially those than include pictures, have been proven to help them achieve their goal. These warnings will also reduce the appeal of tobacco to children.

“We strongly welcome the publication of picture warnings on cigarette packs,” said Ms. Kathleen O’Meara, Head of Advocacy and Communications at the Irish Cancer Society. “In order to survive, tobacco companies need to divert attention from the deadly effects of smoking. They spend millions of Euros on promotional campaigns that include carefully crafted packet designs that aim to attract new smokers and stop existing smokers from quitting. Photo warnings make smoking less attractive by deglamorising the addiction and showing smokers how they are damaging their health.”

In Ireland, smoking rates amongst young people and women remain worryingly high. These groups have been directly targeted by the tobacco industry through marketing and branding efforts. Across the world, tobacco companies have been fighting legislation that is aimed at motivating smokers to quit and reducing the appeal of smoking to young people and children.

In 2008, a panel made up of representatives from the Department of Health and the Office of Tobacco Control chose 14 images that would be displayed on cigarette packs. A Eurobarometer Survey in 2009 found that 75% of Irish respondents think that images on cigarette packages will be effective in reducing the smoking rate. Research from Canada shows that smokers are more likely to remember a health warning if they have seen it in picture form.

While the current text warnings on cigarettes have been successful, the Irish Cancer Society says it is now important to reinforce and amplify the messages by complementing them with graphics.

Tobacco packs are used as a promotional tool. While terms like ‘low tar’ are now banned, there is a growing bank of evidence that smokers think brands described as ‘light’ and ‘mild’, or silver or white in colour, are less harmful. Under proposed European laws, there will be a ban this type of misleading promotion.

“Every so often, a law comes into force that will save lives,” said Ms. O'Meara. “Picture warnings on cigarette packs will do just that – save lives. We are confident that the images will motivate people to quit and act as a disincentive for people who might be about to start. The Irish Cancer Society looks forward to seeing images on tobacco packaging shortly.”

More images of the photographic warnings which will appear on cigarette packs in Ireland are available on our Facebook page today.