Wed, Sep 06, 2017 - Page 1 News List

Cigarette warnings lack scare factor, experts say

By Lin Yan-tung and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Warning labels on cigarette packaging in Hong Kong, left, and Taiwan, right, are shown. The labels cover 85 percent and 35 percent of the packaging respectively.

Photo courtesy of the John Tung Foundation

Warning labels on cigarette packaging are too small and not “frightening” enough to be effective, academics said at a forum in Taipei on Monday.

The difference in the number of people who smoke in Taiwan (3 million) compared with Hong Kong (640,000) might be due to the difference in the sizes of warning labels on packaging, they said at the Tobacco Hazard and Prevention Forum for Cross-strait Locations, Hong Kong and Macau.

Warning labels in Taiwan only comprise 35 percent of packaging and are “a light reminder,” academics said.

The Hong Kong government stipulates that warning labels and pictures take up 85 percent of the packaging, with pictures of long-time smokers and the effects of smoking on the body, as well as warning labels, such as: “Smoking causes strokes” or “Smoking kills.”

Surveys have shown that the majority of Hong Kongers support the legislation, University of Hong Kong professor Lam Tai-hing (林大慶) said.

The pictures are thought to scare many young people off smoking, Lam said.

In Taiwan, government statistics last year showed that 15.3 percent of adults smoke, while young people who use e-cigarettes have doubled since 2015.

E-cigarettes were used by 3.7 percent of junior-high school students, compared with 2 percent in 2015, while their use among senior-high school students was 4.8 percent, compared with 2.1 percent in 2015, the statistics showed.

The Health Promotion Administration said it was aware of the statistics and amendments to the Tobacco Hazards Prevention Act (菸害防制法) have been sent to the Executive Yuan.

The amendments would increase the size of warning labels on cigarette packaging to 85 percent and would hike fines for illegal distribution of e-cigarettes in a bid to deter sales and distribution, the agency said.

Fines for illegal manufacturing or importing of e-cigarettes would be increased from NT$10,000 to NT$50,000 to NT$50,000 to NT$250,000, it said.

Illegal sales would be fined NT$10,000 to NT$50,000, up from NT$1,000 to NT$3,000, it said.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare said it would convene a panel to discuss the kinds of pictures that would be a deterrent to smoking.

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