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WHO Calls For Images of Smoking-Related Diseases on Cigarette Packaging

In an effort to increase the public’s awareness of the health consequences of cigarettes, the WHO on Friday called on international governments to require that cigarette packages feature images of the harmful effects smoking can have on the body, the AP/ reports (Klapper, AP/, 5/29).

Speaking during a press conference held ahead of Sunday’s 22nd Annual World No Tobacco Day – which centered around the theme of tobacco health warnings (WHO Tobacco Free Initiative, 1/12) – the Director of WHO’s Tobacco Free Initiative, Douglas Bettcher, said images of “yellow teeth, blackened gums, protruding neck tumours and bleeding brains” on each pack of cigarettes, in addition to written warnings, would help to alert smokers to disease risks, Reuters reports  (MacInnis, Reuters, 5/29).

“The use of candid, often shocking pictures is one of the most exciting, cost-effective and effective trends in tobacco-control today. It is a positive form of globalization for public health,” Bettcher said, adding, “Although some people question the need for such pictures, the evidence is absolutely clear that they convince people to quit,” as studies have shown in such countries as Brazil, Canada, Singapore and Thailand where graphic pictures are regularly displayed on cigarette packages (Schlein, VOA News, 5/31).

Though more than five million people worldwide die from tobacco-related deaths each year – making it the leading cause of preventable death – “only a tenth of the world’s population lives in countries requiring warning pictures,” according to VOA News (VOA News, 5/29).

Bettcher said that 80 percent of all smokers live in developing countries, where rates of smoking have been on the rise in recent years, thanks to a “ramping-up of tobacco marketing and production in poorer states,” Reuters writes (Reuters, 5/29). The New Vision/ writes, “It is projected that the death toll of tobacco-related diseases will rise to 10 million per year, with 70 percent occurring in developing countries” (Bekunda/Kagolo, New Vision/, 5/31).

The WHO also supports “bans on tobacco marketing and sponsorship, prohibitions of smoking in public buildings, and high taxes on tobacco products,” Reuters writes (Reuters, 5/29).

International Responses to World No Tobacco Day

The National Tobacco Control Office of the Ministry of Health in China on Sunday released a report that showed doctors as well as patients in the region were largely unaware of the negative health effects of cigarette smoking, China reports. “The country faces an extremely difficult situation in tobacco control,” Yang Gonghuan, director of China’s National Tobacco Control Office, said (Dingding, China, 6/1).  According to Sarah England, technical officer with the WHO’s Tobacco Free Initiative, “[M]any Chinese tobacco products feature national icons like the Forbidden City and famous scenic beauty spots like Yellow Mountain, which are attractive to look at, to own and to hold.” She added that association with lofty social standing and prestige also makes smoking more attractive in China and distracts from the health risks (Tao, Xinhua, 5/31).

The Yemen Times examines efforts being made in the country to reduce smoking, including legislation that prevents cigarette companies from advertising, requirements that cigarette manufacturers include warning pictures on the labels of cigarette packets, and increased cigarette taxes. In the Arab world, Yemen’s smoking rate is second only to Tunisia’s, according to a WHO survey (Yemen Times, 5/31).

In Kolkata, India, doctors used the occasion of World No Tobacco Day to speak about the need for the government to increase the population’s awareness of the ban on smoking in public places established in 2008, so as to protect the health of the city’s children, the Statesman reports. According to the city doctors, there are a growing number of city children that have been issued inhalers, which they say is the result of second-hand smoke (Statesman, 5/31).

In Pakistan, where an estimated 100,000 people each year die from diseases caused by tobacco use, medical students and doctors united for a walk to generate awareness about the dangers of smoking in Lahore (Nadeem, International News, 6/1) and a symposium was held in Peshawar (Rahman, International News, 5/31).

The Monitor examines Uganda’s efforts to address the public health threat posed by smoking, now five years since the country signed the International Convention on Tobacco Control (Mashoo, Monitor, 5/30).

ISD/ examines the recent request from a non-governmental agency executive for the government of Ghana to pass a tobacco control bill into law (Bema, ISD/, 5/30).