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Damien O'Connor

2 November, 2006

Graphic warnings for cigarette packets

Graphic images of the kinds of damage smoking can cause will cover cigarette packets from early 2008.

The current text warnings on cigarette packets will be replaced by pictorial warnings, covering 30 per cent of the front of every cigarette packet and 90 per cent of the rear, the Government announced today.

Associate Minister of Health Damien O'Connor said it is acknowledged that direct smoking and second-hand smoke contributes to 5000 deaths every year. Using powerful imagery to remind people of the real and horrific effects of smoking would act to deter smokers and discourage New Zealand's young from starting the habit in the first place.

"The pictorial warnings will include images such as diseased lungs, gangrenous toes and rotting gums and teeth. They're designed to shock people into realising that smoking kills and causes serious illness."

Today's announcement follows months of consultation.

Cigarette packets will also display the Quitline freephone number and other information about quitting smoking to help those wanting to give up take the next step, Mr O'Connor said.

Recent research out of Canada shows that large pictorial warnings on cigarette packets are an effective means of increasing health knowledge amongst smokers. Canada has had pictorial warnings on cigarette packets since 2001.

All tobacco products manufactured for sale in New Zealand must meet the new labelling regulations by February 27, 2008 – within 12 months of the regulations coming into force, giving the tobacco industry time to make changes to its manufacturing processes, Mr O'Connor said.

Pictorial warnings on cigarette packets are just one of the many tobacco control measures this Government has taken to combat the tobacco epidemic.

Background Information

  • Seven pictorial warnings will appear on cigarette packets in both English and te reo Maori in year one, with a further seven warnings in year two and will then be rotated each year thereafter.
  • Health warnings will be placed on cigars, cigarillos, loose tobacco and other forms of tobacco products, similar to the Australian requirements.
  • The current list of ingredients on cigarette packets (i.e levels of tar and nicotine) will be replaced with a qualitative message about the harmful chemicals contained in tobacco smoke.
  • Text information on health warnings will appear in black and yellow. This follows research undertaken by BRC Marketing and Social Research on various focus groups.
  • Once the new labelling requirements come into force, retailers will have six months to sell existing cigarettes containing old warnings.

The government has a five-year plan to reduce the harm caused by tobacco. Read more here

New Zealand's smokefree laws were changed for the better in December 2003. Find out more at www.moh.govt.nz/smokefreelaw.

  • Damien O'Connor
  • Health