Cigarette packs get images of death and disease
GRAPHIC images of cancerous growths and diseased lungs will soon appear on cigarette packs to show the detrimental effects of smoking.
Regulations to facilitate the introduction of combined text and photo warnings are now being drafted by Health Minister Mary Harney, her department has confirmed.
A collection of 40 images, showing everything from rotten teeth to a small foetus in the womb, have been put together, from which Ms Harney must choose 14 graphics.
Two of the images feature corpses with the headline statement of "Smokers die younger".
And two others feature patients on operating tables having suffered heart attacks and strokes.
The images centre on 14 messages telling smokers that they risk clogged arteries, strokes, cancer and other diseases.
Six photos demonstrate that smoking will decrease fertility, reduce the blood flow and cause impotence. Another six focus on the effects on unborn babies and children.
Ms Harney will soon hold talks with the relevant stakeholders about the pictorial warnings. Once finalised, there will be a lead-in period of six to nine months.
The legislation to introduce the pictures is currently in the Dail queue for debate.
While recent European Commission decisions do not make the combined photo and text warnings compulsory, Ireland has decided to introduce them, a spokeswoman for Ms Harney confirmed.
Last night, Fine Gael's health spokesman James Reilly described the images as "very vivid" but said they needed to be introduced as soon as possible.
"They need to be vivid and clearly let people know what smoking can do to them," he said.
"The sooner it's done, the sooner we can save lives, the sooner the better."
Until now, just written warnings have appeared on packs but under the new legislation, photographs will also feature.
Such images are already mandatory in certain countries, including Belgium and Uruguay.
The use of graphic pictorial images on cigarette boxes is seen as a crucial step in reducing tobacco-related deaths.
Rates of smoking in Ireland have declined over the last decade from 33pc to 29pc -- particularly since 2004, when former Health Minister Micheal Martin banned smoking in the workplace.
However, it is estimated that close to 7,000 people die each year in Ireland from smoking-related illnesses.