Ireland: Pictorial warning debate

Aug 22, 2011

Irish tobacco manufacturers have claimed graphic images on cigarette packets will not force smokers to quit the habit.

The Irish Tobacco Manufacturers’ Advisory Committee (ITMAC) made the claim as it emerged five tobacco firms plan to sue the US Food and Drug administration (FDA) over a new law that will force them to place graphic health warnings on cigarette packets.

The firms in question, RJ Reynolds Tobacco, Lorillard Tobacco, Commonwealth Brands, Liggett Group and Santa Fe Natural Tobacco argue the plan violates their constitutional right to free speech, as it requires firms to promote the government’s anti-smoking views.

Similar legislation, which will force tobacco companies to print photographic warnings on cigarette packaging, was debated in the Dáil last month after being passed by the Seanad. The Department of Health and the Office of Tobacco Control has agreed a selection of 14 images for display on cigarette packaging.

The Irish Cancer Society claims graphic pictures on packaging are particularly effective as a health warning.

However, a spokesman for ITMAC said the move will not lead to changes in smokers’ behaviour.

“ITMAC believes that graphic warnings will not add anything further to adult smokers’ knowledge as the risks associated with smoking are well-known and graphic images do not lead to changes in smokers’ behaviours.

“A recent study commissioned by the British Department of Health on the effectiveness of graphic warnings have borne this out. ITMAC agree all tobacco products need to feature an appropriate health warning and recommend text health warnings for boldness and legibility and to ensure clarity of message,” he said.

The study carried out by the Public Health Consortium in Britain found adding graphic images to packets did not affect behavioural responses to smoking.

“Post-implementation of the pictures, no increases were observed in the range or depth of awareness of the health risks associated with smoking or secondhand exposure to smoke. Cigarette smoking prevalence and cigarette consumption did not vary and there were no increases in behavioural responses such as attempting to stop smoking, foregoing a cigarette when about to smoke one or stubbing a cigarette out,” said the report.

Source: Irish Examiner (August 18, 2011)