Anti-smoking horror show gets message through

More Australians are calling the smoking Quitline since pictures of gangrenous feet and rotting mouths appeared on cigarette packets, prompting calls for similar action here.

Cancer Society spokeswoman Nicola Barnes said more than 9000 smokers called the Quitline last month - about 6000 more than when the packets were image-free.

"The calls went from 3000 in February, up to 4000 in April, and May had 9411 callers," Ms Barnes said.

The images appeared on the packets in March.

Last month, the New Zealand Government launched a consultation document that proposed a series of warnings about the dangers of smoking, including the gruesome images on cigarettes, cigars, cigarillos and loose tobacco packets.

"We signed up to the [World Health Organisation] framework on tobacco control and we locked ourselves into a process that lays out some good moves towards harm reduction and, ultimately, the reduction in smoking from tobacco," Associate Health Minister Damien O'Connor said.

"The issue of the size [of the pictorial warnings] is one that we now want to talk with the industry and with people on, and there are two choices - one is for roughly 50 per cent of the packet to be covered or 60 per cent."

British American Tobacco spokesman Carrick Graham earlier said that during the past 15 years, there had been "constant changes" to restrictions and regulations.

"Putting graphic images on packs is not going to change things at all," he said.

"They [the images] will just fade into the background."

But Cancer Society health promotion adviser Belinda Hughes said the research from Australia showed the new graphic pictorial health warnings on cigarettes were encouraging Australians to quit smoking in their droves.

"The Australian quitlines are seeing large increases in the number of people seeking help to quit smoking since graphic health warnings were introduced there in March this year," Ms Hughes said.

"Tobacco companies have been opposing the introduction of large pictorial health warnings and have claimed that they don't work.

"This result illustrates that large graphic health warnings are an important tool in supporting and encouraging smokers to quit."

The Cancer Society is encouraging the Ministry of Health to increase the proposed size of the new pictorial health warnings on cigarettes, she said.

"We are also encouraging the Ministry of Health to fund an educational campaign when the pictorial health warnings are introduced here, as they have done in Australia."

- NZPA

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