Disgusting Photos Belgium Wants to Shock Smokers out of their Habit

Belgium is aiming to use shocking images to persuade smokers to give up once and for all. By June 2007, all cigarette packets will have to include the disturbing images of tumors, heart operations or teeth falling out.

Even though most smokers know deep down that their habit is bad for them, it still seems difficult to persuade many of them to kick the habit. However, Belgium wants to tackle the problem head on. The Belgian government has decided that from now on all cigarette packets that are sold in the country must include a shocking image of the consequences of smoking.

From this week on tobacco producers must include the shocking anti-smoking photographs on all cigarette packets. The government has stipulated that by June 2007 all cigarettes for sale in the country be adorned with the photographs. The images depict the health consequences of smoking -- from loss of teeth to cancerous tumors -- and they are part of a European Union anti-smoking campaign initiated in 2004 by the then EU health commissioner David Byrne.

Retailers in Belgium now have six months to sell off their old stock and replace it with the cigarettes with the photos. Belgium is so far the only country in the EU to implement this method of using drastic images to turn people off smoking. The other member states are free to decide for themselves if they want to use the images. The European Commission collected the photos two years ago after consulting with Canada, which has been using similar warning images for a few years. More than 500,000 people die within the EU borders each year from the direct or indirect consequences of smoking. It is though that visual images can be more effective in getting the message across than written warnings or statistics.

It is estimated that smoking related illnesses cost EU member states around €100 billion ($133 billion) a year, but income from taxes on tobacco only brings in €14 billion.

smd/spiegel/ap

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