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Graphic health warnings on tobacco products

27 February 2008

Graphic health warnings on tobacco products bear the ugly truth


New graphic images on tobacco products in New Zealand bear the ugly truth of the effects of smoking, Associate Health Minister Damien O'Connor said today.

New regulations requiring graphic health warnings to appear on all tobacco packaging sold in New Zealand comes into force tomorrow. The warnings include images of gangrenous toes, diseased lungs, smoking damaged hearts and rotting teeth and gums.

Mr O'Connor said the new regulations are an important step in New Zealand's ongoing battle to reduce death and disease from smoking.

"We make no apologies for these ugly, graphic photos. They're designed to shock people into realising that smoking kills and causes a wide range of serious illnesses. The images show what people are likely to suffer should they smoke over a prolonged period of time.

"I am confident the warnings will help smokers break their deadly habit and will prove exceptionally off-putting for any would-be smokers," said Mr O'Connor.

The regulations see 30 percent of the front and 90 percent of the back of cigarette packs covered in the graphic images. For the first time, cigarette and other tobacco packets will also prominently display the Quitline logo, freephone number and other information about quitting.

Mr O'Connor said the new warnings complement the Labour-led government's comprehensive tobacco control programme, and are designed to help prevent some of the 5,000 smoking related deaths each year.

"Tobacco control is a high priority for this government. In last year's Budget we invested $43.6 million in additional funding over four years for smoking cessation services. "Other initiatives include stopping smoking in indoor workplaces, campaigns against second hand smoke and seeking public feedback on tobacco display in New Zealand," said Mr O'Connor.

Other countries that have already introduced pictorial warnings include Canada, Brazil, Singapore and Australia.

Retailers have until 28 August to sell any remaining stock with the old text warnings on them.

- Seven pictorial warnings will appear on cigarette packets in both English and te reo Māori in year one, with a further seven warnings in year two and they will then be rotated each year thereafter.

- The new health warnings will be placed on cigarettes, cigars, cigarillos, loose tobacco and other forms of tobacco products (similar to the Australian requirements).

- The current list of ingredients on cigarette packets (i.e levels of tar and nicotine) will be replaced with a qualitative message about the harmful chemicals contained in tobacco smoke.

The 14 new health warnings are:
- smoking causes blindness,
- smoking causes gangrene,
- smoking causes mouth cancer,
- you are not the only one smoking this cigarette,
- over 80% of lung cancers are caused by smoking,
- tobacco smoke is poisonous,
- smoking causes heart attacks,
- smoking can make you impotent,
- smoking is highly addictive,
- smoking causes foul and offensive breath,
- your smoking can harm your kids,
- smoking causes serious lung diseases,
- smoking more than doubles your risk of stroke,
- smoking blocks your arteries.

ENDS

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