Peru smokers to face combined text and picture warnings on cigarette packs

Peru smokers buying cigarettes will soon be confronted with a series of gruesome images showing the devastating health effects of smoking, Peru’s Health Ministry said Monday.

The new combined text and pictorial warnings, which are believed to be more effective because people are more likely to remember the damage they are doing to their health if they have seen a picture of it, are to be enforced by June 2009, according to daily El Comercio.

The text and images, according to the new tobacco graphics law published in official state daily El Peruano, are to obligatorily occupy at least 50 percent of a cigarette packet’s front, or the packaging of other tobacco products.

The World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control requires ratifying nations to implement warnings that cover at least 30 percent of the principal display areas of cigarette packs and recommends that warnings cover at least 50 percent of the display areas and use pictures or pictograms. To date, 151 countries have ratified the treaty.

Overall, large graphic health warnings have been shown to be an extremely prominent, cost-effective means of communicating with smokers. In recognition of this evidence, the WHO has identified comprehensive warnings as among the six key measures required to address the tobacco epidemic.

By September 2008, more than 20 countries, including Chile, Canada, Hong Kong, Panama, Romania, Thailand, the UK, Venezuela and Jordan, had developed picture-based warnings on cigarette packs. These gruesome graphics typically include photos of bulging tumors, brown and yellow diseased lungs, “flaccid cigarettes” as well as rotting teeth.

According to Euromonitor International’s Tobacco in Peru market report, there were almost four million smokers in Peru in 2007, with the highest prevalence of smoking being in Peru’s capital, Lima. Peru’s first anti-tobacco legislation was enacted in 2006, as smoking was held responsible for causing increases in the incidence of cancer. In 2000, 624 million cigarette sticks were imported, and 3605 million produced in the Andean country, according to WHO statistics.

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