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The generation that is born today should be a generation without tobacco

By Manjari Peiris

Currently one person dies every six seconds due to tobacco, which is nearly six million people each year, the World Health Organization states.

Ministers from 10 countries, including Australia with the aim of ending high smoking rates among young people, assembled recently in Paris to start a common drive to introduce plain cigarette packaging.

They said plain packaging had been shown to reduce the attractiveness of cigarettes for consumers, especially among women and youth. The effectiveness of health warnings of cigarette packets too increases.

World’s first plain package tobacco laws which comes from Australia are having the desired effect with eight out of ten smokers saying they don’t like the appearance of their ugly cigarette packets. Half of all smokers say they support the new packaging.

The French Health Minister Marisol Touraine hosting the conference said the aim was “a world without tobacco” and the generation that is born today should be a generation without tobacco”.

The target with plain packaging is not long term smokers, but preventing young people from starting to smoke. Plain packaging has an impact on them.

According to her smoking kills 78,000 people each year in France and those eight million smokers worldwide would die each year by 2030, if action is not taken.

Saying that “significant scientific proof justified plain cigarette packaging” representatives from nations as far afield as New Zealand, South Africa and Uruguay issued a joint statement.

Several countries have recently passed legislation to introduce plain cigarette packaging laws. Fierce opposition from powerful tobacco lobby has been working against them.

Australia was the first country to have introduced plain packaging legislation in 2012. Australia made it mandatory for cigarettes to be sold in dull packaging with graphic health warnings covering 90 percent of the back of the pack and 75 percent of the front of the pack.

These rules were designed to reduce the appeal of tobacco products, increase the effectiveness of health warnings and reduce the ability of packaging to mislead about the harm that smoking causes.

Some studies in Australia have shown that the rate of young smokers has declined with the introduction of plain packaging. However the tobacco industry counters that the reason for the decline is high tobacco excise duty.

The Cancer Institute NSW Chief Professor David Currow, says that they are seeing some real changes in the perception of smokers and their quitting behavior. Since 2006 they have been interviewing around 50 people a week, inquiring their responses to health warnings on tobacco products.

Two to three months after the introduction of plain packaging, there was a significant increase in the total proportion of smokers having strong response to plain packs.

The prominence of the new health warnings had encouraged smokers from 13 to 20 percent, to quit the habit.

This research found eight in ten smokers no longer thinking that their cigarette pack was attractive. Earlier this figure was only from two in ten.

A comparable number no longer thought their pack was fashionable, influenced the brand they bought or matched their style.

Since the adoption of plain packs, from 13 to 27 percent smokers were more likely that health warning packs made them worry, that they shouldn’t be smoking.

Professor Currow says; “This first of its kind study demonstrates the clear and continued impact tobacco plain packaging has had on the prominence of non pack health warnings as well as negative perceptions about tobacco packs.”

If plain cigarette packs can deepen responses of smokers to warnings as shown in this study, undoubtedly we can expect flow on effects on consumption and quitting as a direct result of plain packaging” says Professor Currow.

Britain is to follow Australia’s lead and introduce plain packaging in mid 2016 with public health advocates suggesting the majority of Europe could ban tobacco branding within five years.

– Asian Tribune –

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