Health

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Associated Press
Shanghai, China

China Considering Graphic New Antismoking Measures

February 17, 2009 12:03 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Chinese health officials are pushing for photos or other graphics to demonstrate the dangers of smoking on cigarrette boxes; currently there is only a discreet statement.

A More Effective Warning

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Cigarette boxes currently carry a small warning that reads, “Smoking is harmful to your health.” Officials say it’s not enough, and are making a concerted effort to ensure that smokers know the true risks.

Popular Web site Sohu.com has become the official site of a campaign called “Toward a smoke-free China.” The International Herald Tribune reports that the site is collecting ideas from the public, which will be presented to the National People’s Congress next month.

The country needs to imrprove antismoking efforts to comply with a World Health Organization recommendation to put tougher warnings on cigarette packaging. The Tribune reports that it is not entirely clear what effect the new warnings will have “in a country where cigarettes are tightly woven into everyday life.”

Details about the campaign are not yet available. It is doubtful that China’s warnings will be as graphic as ones New York City’s health department opted for in September, putting pictures of tumors, smokers’ lungs and decaying gums on matchbook covers.

Sarah Perl, the city’s Assistant Commissioner for the Bureau of Tobacco Control, described the matchbooks for the New York Daily News at the time.

“The front of it is black for stealth. Having it on the inside of the matchbook provides an element of surprise,” she said.

Background: Graphic pictures used worldwide

Compared to several other countries, China is coming late to a worldwide campaign to put stricter warnings on cigarettes. The European Union recommended that its members start printing images four years ago, reported German broadcaster Deutsche Welle.

David Byrne, the union’s commissioner for health and consumer protection at the time, said, “People need to be shocked out of their complacency about tobacco. I make no apology for some of the pictures we are using.”

But not everyone adopted the suggestion. Sweden’s health minister in 2004 said, “I am skeptical towards the use of photos on cigarette packages and happy with the written warnings in place today,” according to Deutsche Welle.

It took until last year for the U.K. to roll out the photo campaign, reported the Telegraph.

Egypt started requiring graphic photos on cigarette packs last summer, USA Today reported. More than half of adult males smoke in Egypt, and it’s so ingrained in the culture that “patients sometimes light up in hospital rooms,” the newspaper said.

Brazil, Thailand and Jordan are among other countries that use pictures on cigarette packages, USA Today reported.

Reference: Use the Web to kick the habit

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