SHOCKING pictures of throat cancer and rotting teeth are to appear on all new cigarette packets from today to warn people of the risks of smoking.
The graphic warnings, depicting neck tumours and diseased lungs, warn smokers they risk a slow and painful death. They are aimed at cutting the 5,500 deaths from the habit annually.
Health Minister Dr James Reilly said: "One in two of all long-term smokers will die from smoking-related diseases. This is a stark statistic."
He said the introduction of similar images on packs resulted in a fourfold increase in smoker's intentions to quit in Canada – up from 20pc to 87pc.
There are 14 images available and cigarette manufacturers must feature them on all new products from today.
Dr Ross Morgan of ASH Ireland said the images would provide people with the "realities facing smokers".
He urged the minister to go a step further and follow Australia which introduced plain packaging, combined with graphic warnings on all tobacco packs. Dr Reilly said he was hoping to move in this direction.
Irish Heart Foundation head of advocacy Chris Macey pointed out that cigarette manufacturers had invested vast sums of money to target young people in an effort to replace around 50 smokers every day in Ireland who either die or manage to quit.
"Tobacco is a highly addictive and lethal product, unfortunately 78pc of smokers take up the habit before the age of 18 years. Graphic images showing the deadly impact of smoking will not only prove more effective than current text warnings, they will also limit the industry's power to ... hook young smokers," he said.