Estonia Likely to Choose Graphic Images on Cigarette Packs

Source: Photo: Postimees/Scanpix

According to members of a ministry working group, packs of smokes will probably be graced with pictures of black lungs, pharyngeal cancer and decaying teeth - the worst of the EU's album of 42 images member states can choose from under a European directive.

Estonia will have to choose 14 of the images, one for each warning label.

A working group at the Social Affairs Ministry is currently drafting the country's tobacco policy or green book, to be presented to the Cabinet by year's end.

The Social Affairs Ministry's environmental health and chemical safety department head Aive Telling told Eesti Päevaleht that the selection would be made based on consumer research, and the knowledge and experience of the members of the working group.

"Images that spark fear and strong emotions are much more effective than just a warning label, especially for those with low literacy levels and children," she said.

A family doctor on the working group told the paper that the  group was focusing on measures to reduce smoking among children and adolescents.

But the tobacco lobby said research indicated that such images backfired. Aili Herkel of the Estonian association of tobacco manufacturers said: "Some research indicates the opposite, that pictorial warnings could reinforce smoking among people for whom it is part of their identity. Canada was the first country where pictures covered more than 50 percent of the pack. Unfortunately it hasn't changed smoking habits or even raised awareness of the risks related to smoking."

She argued that smokers did not make consumer decisions when they already had the pack in hand, and accused Estonia of being overly earnest at a time when, she said, the European Commission is leading a review of the directive in question.

Just under 10 EU countries have images emblazoned on cigarette packs, Latvia being the only one of Estonia's neighbors to do so. The directive must be transposed into national legislation by 2014. 


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