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Quit calls for bigger graphic health warnings

Monday 19 January, 2009

More than 1 in 5 smokers believe the dangers of smoking are exaggerated, and half of smokers don't spontaneously identify lung cancer as a smoking-caused illness, according to new data released today.

The research, from The Cancer Council Victoria, reveals the majority of smokers remain in the dark about the particular health risks of smoking, with less than 1 in 10 identifying bronchitis, eye problems, gangrene, asthma and pregnancy complications as illnesses caused by smoking.

Other key data includes:

  • Despite most smokers not linking smoking with specific illnesses, almost 90% of current smokers believe there are illnesses caused by smoking.
  • Almost two-thirds of all smokers do not spontaneously identify that smoking causes emphysema and heart disease/attack.
  • Mouth/oral cancer is spontaneously associated with smoking by 12% of smokers, and throat cancer by 11% of smokers.

The results were more promising when smokers were prompted with information, with almost 85% then believing that smoking causes lung cancer, and over three-quarters agreeing that smoking causes emphysema, throat cancer, mouth cancer and heart disease.

Quit's Policy Manager, Ms Kylie Lindorff, said the data was a reminder that although progress had been made in tobacco control many smokers still do not fully understand all of the health risks of smoking.

"More work still needs to be done to communicate the devastating health effects of tobacco use, because too many lives are still lost needlessly to smoking. "

"By exposing smokers to campaigns which explicitly show the health effects of smoking and by systematically updating graphic health warnings and making them a larger feature of cigarette packaging we can better communicate the devastating health consequences of smoking."

"Larger health warnings are linked with greater levels of awareness among smokers, so increasing the size of the graphic warnings to take up 90% of the front of packs would no doubt have a positive impact on smokers considering a quit attempt."

Manager of Support Program at Quit, Mr Luke Atkin, said the release was timely, coming hot on the heels of a new campaign being launched on Victorian television showing a range smoking-caused diseases.

"The campaign is a confronting montage of well known smoking-related diseases taken from quit campaigns shown over the last 10 years. It is almost a best of, or more appropriately a ‘worst of' compilation of health consequences caused by smoking."

"A key facet of the campaign is that it recognises that although smokers may know generally smoking is bad for them they find it difficult to quit, highlighting the fact that smokers may need help to break their habit once and for all," said Mr Atkin.

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