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Canada study: Graphic cigarette warnings effective

OTTAWA, Canada (CNN) -- Graphic warning labels on cigarette packages in Canada have been effective in discouraging smoking, according to a study by the Canadian Cancer Society.

Fifty-eight percent of smokers interviewed in the study said full-color pictures of how cancer affects the mouth, lungs, heart and brain had made them think more about the health effects of smoking.

The warnings were so effective that 44 percent of the smokers polled said the new warnings increased their motivation to quit smoking. And 38 percent of smokers who attempted to quit in 2001 said the new warnings were a factor in motivating them to try to quit.

The full-color, picture-based warnings cover half of the front and back of each package of cigarettes. They include pictures of a diseased mouth, a lung tumor, a brain after a stroke, a damaged heart, and a limp cigarette that warns of impotence. Warnings inside each package offer tips on quitting.

The warnings were launched about a year ago and replaced black-and-white text messages that covered about 35 percent of each package, similar to cigarette package warnings in the United States.

The study also found that:

-- 43 percent of smokers and 40 percent of nonsmokers said they are more concerned about the health effects of smoking because of the new warnings;

-- 21 percent of smokers said they have been tempted on one or more occasions to have a cigarette but decided not to because of the new warnings;

-- 27 percent of smokers said they smoke less inside their home because of the new warnings;

-- 35 percent of smokers and 34 percent of nonsmokers said they know more about the health effects of smoking than they did before the new warnings;

-- 48 percent of nonsmokers said the new warnings made them feel better about being a nonsmoker;

--17 percent of smokers said they have put their cigarette pack away at least once because they did not want others to see the warning, and 24 percent of smokers said they have at least once put a cardboard sleeve over their pack or transferred cigarettes to another container;

--18 percent of smokers said they have on at least one occasion asked for a different package of cigarettes when purchasing them because they did not like the warning on the package first offered.

In addition, smokers and nonsmokers identified the warning depicting a diseased mouth and the picture of a lung tumor as most effective at discouraging smoking.

The health warnings on cigarette packages are required under the Tobacco Products Information Regulations. The rules, which set a precedent at the time, were adopted under the Tobacco Act that the Canadian Parliament passed in 1997.

In January 2000, similar bills were proposed in the United States. However, the leading advocate, U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-New Jersey, retired, and the proposal has not come before Congress under the Bush administration.

However, Reps. James V. Hansen, R-Utah, and Marty Meehan D-Massachusetts said Wednesday that they will introduce legislation to require larger, picture-based health warnings on U.S. tobacco products following the release of the Canadian study.

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, Brazil will require picture-based warnings as of January 31, and a European Community directive gives member countries the option of using pictures. The World Health Organization is examining picture-based warnings as a possible worldwide requirement through an international treaty.

The study, in which 2,000 Canadian adults were interviewed -- 633 of them smokers -- was funded by the Institute of Cancer Research of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.


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