Larger graphic health warnings on cigarette packets are effective

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 July, 2015, 3:58pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 July, 2015, 3:58pm

The proposed additional tobacco control measures to be discussed at a special Legislative Council meeting on July 6 deserve support and attention.

As an organisation that provides well-recognised tobacco control programmes to students on a daily basis, Life Education Activity Programme (LEAP) supports legislative proposals to strengthen tobacco control. In particular, we back the proposal to change the prescribed form of health warning on cigarette packets and to regulate electronic cigarettes, so as to protect young people better against the temptations of smoking.

Based on our understanding of students' thoughts and attitudes towards smoking, we strongly agree to increasing the different kinds of health warnings on cigarette packets, as well as increasing the area of the graphic health warnings to 85 per cent of the two largest surfaces of the pack.

Research has shown that the larger the health warnings, the more effective they are in preventing smoking initiation among young people. In fact, most of the students who attended LEAP's drug prevention education programmes agreed that graphic health warnings are not only easy to understand but also very memorable. Yet, they also suggested that the existing health warnings have been in use for so long that they don't serve their purposes any more, implying that these warnings are losing their effectiveness. We believe that new designs and an increase in health warning size would help make a stronger impact on students and weaken their desire to try smoking.

Meanwhile, e-cigarettes, which come in various colours and flavours at a very affordable price, are arousing students' interest as they are so easily available at shops targeting young people.

Even school teachers are alarmed by the ways that e-cigarettes are being promoted to students. Recently, we received a request from a school to provide more information about e-cigarettes as it had come to the school's attention that one of their students had received an e-cigarette as a gift after making a purchase at a shop.

It is evident that e-cigarettes are marketed to young people in unrestrained ways and, with uncertainties such as the issues of safety and quality still surrounding e-cigarettes, immediate action must be taken to put them under effective control before they further harm our young people with their potential health effects.

Established in 1994, LEAP's mission is to help prevent substance abuse, particularly drugs, including alcohol and tobacco, by providing health-based education programmes for students and parents.

Heidi Lau, executive director, LEAP