By: Jet Villa
MANILA, Philippines — An anti-smoking group on Wednesday renewed calls for the adoption of picture warnings on cigarette packs, saying these were far more effective than text in convincing people to quit the habit.
Lawyer Irene Reyes, managing director of Health Justice Philippines, said in a statement that 64 countries, home to 40 percent of the world’s population, “have finalized picture warning requirements on cigarette packs.”
“In many of these jurisdictions, governments are moving to increase the size of the graphic health warnings. Australia leads with 82.5 percent of the pack covered with the vivid pictorial warnings,” she said.
Thailand is also pushing for an increase to 85 percent, “a big leap from the current packs which feature warnings covering only 55 percent of the package.”
Reyes said India, which ranks second in smoking prevalence worldwide, is now pushing for an increase from 20 percent in warning coverage.
“In the Philippines, however, health advocates feel left behind, still needing to call on government to enforce this life-saving measure,” she added.
Reyes said some 240 Filipinos die every day from tobacco-related illnesses.
“How many more need to die before our lawmakers implement these in our country? Congress is adjourning once again and we still do not know the fate of the graphic health warning bills. We hope that during upcoming election campaign period, voters will be able to discern for themselves which of the candidates will make our country’s public health a priority,” she said.
Canada was the first country to pass legislation mandating picture warnings on cigarette packs in 2001.
Citing a new study by the Harvard School of Public health and international tobacco control group Legacy, the HJP reported that graphic health warnings are proven “more effective … in getting smokers of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds to quit their smoking addiction.”
The study observed the reactions of 3,300 smokers to various warning labels on cigarette packs.
The study showed how the graphics made an impact “across all demographic groups based on race, ethnicity, income, and education.”