LONDON (Reuters) - Gruesome pictures of rotting teeth and throat cancer tumours will appear on all tobacco products in Britain from next month as the government steps up its campaign to encourage the country’s 10 million smokers to quit.
The images will be printed on the back of cigarette packs to illustrate written health warnings introduced in 2003, the Department of Health said on Saturday.
The photos also include a flaccid cigarette to depict male impotence and a comparison of healthy and tar-filled lungs.
Smoking is Britain’s single killer, causing the premature death each year of 87,000 people in England alone.
“These new stark picture warnings emphasise the harsh realities of continuing to smoke,” said Liam Donaldson, the government’s chief medical officer.
Anti-smoking charity ASH welcomed the move, which follows similar campaigns around the world.
“Sadly, smoking is so addictive that even with these grotesque warnings it won’t be enough to stop everybody smoking overnight,” said ASH Research Director Amanda Sandford.
“But for those who are motivated to quit it could be the final step they need.”
The charity is lobbying the government to go further by putting the photos on the front of packs.
The Department of Health said its hands are tied by the rules of a 2001 European Union directive on tobacco health warnings, which also covers which pictures can be displayed.
But it said it had made representations to the European Commission seeking to increase the size of the pictures as well as placing them on pack fronts.
ASH also wants all commercial branding removed from packs, an initiative currently subject to a government consultation.
Research shows that young people presented with plain tobacco packets found them less attractive, the charity said.
Canada in 2001 was the first country to put photo warnings on cigarette packs.
In Europe, Belgium and Romania have already followed suit, but Britain will be the first in the European Union to put the images on all tobacco products, including hand-rolling tobacco and cigars.
Smoking has been banned in enclosed public spaces across Britain since July 2007.
Editing by Avril Ormsby