The Ministry of Health says many smokers are yet to understand the risks of smoking, and so they feel that graphic warning pictures are an effective way to get the message across. Announcing this associate Minister of Health, Damien O'Connor, today launched a proposal for new warnings on cigarette packets.
The Ministry wants feedback on whether health warnings - with both words and pictures - should cover up to 60% of cigarette packs. They announced on Wednesday that graphic pictures of rotting teeth, throat cancer and feet with gangrene would be put on cigarette packs as part of the New Zealand government's latest campaign to reduce smoking.
Chief Advisor on Public Health, Ashley Bloomfield, explained that pictures are more effective than written warnings. He said that surveys have shown many smokers under estimate the risk of diseases, and do not know about many diseases smoking can cause. He further stated that the Ministry will provide the tobacco industry with guidelines on the size and placement of the pictures, and the industry would have to bear the responsibility and cost of putting them on.
He said that there was evidence from countries such as Thailand, Canada, Australia and Brazil, which have used pictorial warnings on cigarette packs that have showed these strategies as being very effective in cutting smoking.
Although public-health campaigns and regulations, including banning smoking in all cafes, bars and workplaces, have reduced the incidence of smoking, one in four adult New Zealanders and nearly half of indigenous Maoris still smoke.
While unveiling 14 different images in a document issued for public consultation, before the government makes the new warnings compulsory, O'Connor said 'in a country where we pride ourselves on our outdoor healthy options, our smoking rate remains alarmingly high'.
Carrick Graham a spokesman for British American Tobacco told the press that they feel that, as written warnings had not cut the number of people smoking and that putting pictures on packets would not make any difference, either. Mr Graham also said that BAT was a legitimate industry that was also working with the government to try and find ways to reduce smoking.
About 4500 New Zealanders a year die from the effects of smoking. A Government decision is not expected before the end of the year.