Thursday, May 13, 2010

Graphic Tobacco Warnings at Site of Purchase

Massachusetts is poised to become the first state in the nation to force retailers to prominently display graphic warnings about the perils of smoking right where cigarettes are sold - at tobacco sales racks and next to cash registers. Images of ominously darkened lungs, damaged brains, and diseased teeth could start appearing before the end of the year in more than 9,000 convenience stores, pharmacies, and gas stations, if a proposal by the state Department of Public Health is approved as expected. Other posters would direct smokers to where they can get help to stamp out their habit.

''If somebody is trying to quit smoking and they go back to the store and they're tempted - oh, just one pack - we hope this will help them make a different choice,'' said Lois Keithly, director of the Massachusetts Tobacco Cessation and Prevention Program.

New York City implemented a similar campaign in December, where Anne Pearson serves as an attorney with the city's Bureau of Tobacco Control. ''There's a large body of evidence showing these graphic images are very effective,'' Pearson said. ''They can communicate information in a way that text just can't, and they can also communicate a message to people regardless of their level of literacy and regardless of the language they speak.''

The campaign is being underwritten by $316,000 in federal stimulus money from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which will allow the state to provide the materials to retailers without charge.

David Zauche
Managing Senior Fellow and Senior Program Officer
Partnership for Prevention


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