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Tue 10 Jun 2008 04:00 AM

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Shock image bid to deter UK smokers

Explicit picture warnings are to be displayed on every cigarette pack sold in the UK from 30 September, MED can disclose.

Explicit picture warnings are to be displayed on every cigarette pack sold in the UK from 30 September, MED can disclose.

In a bid to cut the number of smokers, the government is planning to issue 15 images to illustrate the health warnings that currently appear on cigarette packages such as "smoking when pregnant harms your baby", and "smoking may reduce blood flow and cause impotence".

The picture warnings, which are expected to include graphic images of mouth cancer, premature babies and diseased lungs, have proved effective in raising awareness about the risks of smoking in countries such as Brazil and Canada.

In 2000 Canada became the first country to display graphic health warnings on cigarette packets.

Although the tobacco industry disputes their effectiveness, studies have shown that using gory images has reduced the use of tobacco in Canada by 3.4%.

Another study, by the Canadian Cancer Society, found that 58% of smokers who saw photographic warnings on packets thought twice about the health costs of smoking. About 38% said the warnings played a part in their decisions to kick the habit.

It is estimated that, in England, 364,000 patients are admitted to NHS hospitals each year due to diseases caused by smoking. Half of all teenagers who smoke now will die from diseases caused by tobacco if they continue with the habit. Between 1950 and 2000, about six million Britons would have died from tobacco-related diseases.

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