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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 3/4/22

Writing is on the wall: Pictorial health warnings reduce tobacco use

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Writing is on the wall: Pictorial health warnings reduce tobacco use


Large pictorial health warnings are among essential public health interventions for effectively reducing tobacco use. Plain packaging is even better
Large pictorial health warnings are among essential public health interventions for effectively reducing tobacco use. Plain packaging is even better
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More evidence from scientific research is pouring in to show that graphic pictorial health warnings on all tobacco products are very effective in preventing children and youngsters from starting to consume tobacco, and in encouraging existing tobacco users to quit the lethal addiction. This is not only great news for public health and social justice, but is also another serious blow to the tobacco industry that is selling a product that kills one out of every two of its users as per the World Health Organization (WHO) - the United Nations health agency.

"These are the only two ways to reduce tobacco use: prevent young people from beginning tobacco use, and encourage existing users to quit. It is evident that the WHO's MPOWER Strategy is one of the most cost-effective ways for advancing tobacco control - and graphic pictorial health warning is one of them" said Dr Tara Singh Bam, a noted tobacco control leader and Asia Pacific Director of International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union). Dr Bam was speaking as a faculty at the 2022 South Asia Tobacco Control Leadership Course of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health's Institute for Global Tobacco Control.

Noted poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning had said "The Devil is most devilish when respectable." Tobacco industry despite producing a product that kills and causes life threatening diseases, continues to be a legal entity. One wonders if any such industry- like the tobacco industry- can be a legal entity in today's times? That is why it is so essential to expose, delegitimise and hold this killer industry legally and financially liable for the damage it has caused to human life and our planet.

The nefarious designs of tobacco industry get further exposed as it is trying to stop governments from enforcing science- and evidence-backed public health policies to reduce tobacco use. Tobacco industry is resorting to all kinds of tactics from its 'old playbook' to delay, defeat, dilute, weaken or derail any effort to enforce vital public health interventions, such as the pictorial health warnings or plain packaging. From suing the governments in courts, to intimidation tricks, to other tactics, tobacco industry has done it all to try to derail governments' efforts of enforcing lifesaving public health policies.

Let us not forget that tobacco use kills over 8 million people worldwide every year. Each of these deaths could have been averted, and each of the life-threatening tobacco-related disease could have been prevented had #endTobacco become a reality years back.

Research published recently by Dr Tara Singh Bam, Anand B Chand and Bharat V Shah, "Evidence of the Effectiveness of Pictorial Health Warnings on Cigarette Packaging in Nepal" provides another solid evidence how pictorial/ graphic health warnings have helped save lives from deadly tobacco. Almost one third of the study participants were smokers and one in every ten was an ex-smoker. Nearly all of them (97.6%) believed that smoking was addictive.

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