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EU's antismoking campaign employs scare tactics

BRUSSELS, -- The European Union unveiled a new antismoking campaign that calls on governments to put both horrific and humorous pictures on cigarette packs to deter people from smoking.

Among the 42 pictures is one grisly photo of a man with a cancerous growth on his neck. But most make indirect allusions to the dangers of smoking.

''People need to be shocked out of their complacency about tobacco," EU Health Commissioner David Byrne said.

The EU head office wants EU governments to require cigarette makers to display the photos on their products, hoping the images will have more force than written warnings now on packs of cigarettes, including ''smoking kills" or ''smoking can lead to a slow and painful death."

EU member states now use 14 written health warnings, which must cover at least a third of the packaging. Ireland and Belgium have indicated they will require cigarette makers to use the photos, which should appear on packs next year.

Tobacco is the single largest cause of avoidable death in the 25-nation EU.

The commission said it accounts for over 650,000 deaths a year, or 15 percent of all deaths and 25 percent of all cancer deaths.

Byrne acknowledged the images might not dissuade adults -- especially in Europe, where an estimated one-third smoke -- but hopes they will resonate with teenagers. Studies indicate 80 percent of smokers have picked up the habit by age 15.

To catch the attention of teenagers, the campaign warns of long-term medical dangers, like cancer, and short-term effects, like bad skin and poor sexual performance.

Of one picture that shows a glum-looking couple sitting far apart in bed, Byrne said: ''I think this one emphasizes there are some better things than smoking . . . a lot better."

Participating EU countries can choose which images would resonate within their borders.

Focus groups selected the 42 pictures from 2,100 proposals.

Canada has used similar graphics and warnings on cigarette packs since 2000, and studies indicate there has since been a slight decrease in smoking.

The warnings are central to a new $90 million media campaign to discourage European young people from smoking.

Byrne also called for all EU countries to enact bans on smoking in the workplace.

He said Ireland's ban, which began in May, has resulted in 7,000 people quitting smoking and 10,000 cutting down the number of cigarettes they smoke each day.

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