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Graphic smoking images approved

Published: 8:24AM Thursday November 02, 2006 Source: Newstalk ZB/One News

Warning labels on cigarette packets are about to get a whole lot more graphic.

The government has approved plans to replace the current text warnings on cigarette packets with pictorial warnings, covering 30% of the front of every cigarette packet and 90% of the rear.

The images will include diseased lungs, gangrenous toes and rotting gums and teeth.

Associate Health Minister Damien O'Connor says the approach is designed to shock people into realising smoking kills and causes serious illness.

He says using powerful imagery to remind people of the real and horrific effects of smoking will act to deter smokers and discourage New Zealand's young from starting the habit in the first place.

O'Connor says recent research shows the approach is an effective way of increasing health knowledge amongst smokers.

But anti smoking lobby groups do not trust them to roll over so easily. And expect some clever tricks to help smokers avoid the images.  

The Cancer Society says overseas examples show a range of tricks, including stockpiling old packets and split packets where the offending ads can be ripped off.

New Zealand is obliged to increase the size of its health warnings within the next few years to comply with World Health Organisation rules.

Cigarette packets will also display the Quitline freephone number and other information about quitting smoking to help those wanting to give up take the next step. In Australia the pictures are said to have sparked a 170% increase in calls.

All tobacco products manufactured for sale in New Zealand must meet the new labelling regulations by February 27, 2008.