Tobacco: The (Small) Photo Shock

Tobacco: The (Small) Photo Shock

Already employed in several countries, photos showing the dangers of tobacco will soon ornament cigarette packs sold in France. Nonetheless, the minister of health has settled for replicating the measures taken by our European neighbors.

The minister of health could have taken up Paris Match’s famous slogan (The weight of words, the impact of photos) when she unveiled a new anti-tobacco measure already in force in a good many countries: the presence of shock photos on cigarette packs. The labels show the physical dangers of the legal drug. But in the end, the government folded to tobacconists’ demands: the photos that the [anti-tobacco] associations hoped to see enlarged on both sides of the pack will ultimately be the same size as in other EU countries (40 percent of the pack’s surface) and on the back of each pack only. The Health Department (DGS) stated that these dissuasive photos will appear in 2011.

Originally pushed by the anti-tobacco associations and Health Minister Roselyne Bachelot, who is very committed to this issue, the DGS wanted these photos, which highlight ravaged lungs or a jaw bone rendered toothless by smoking, to figure on both sides of cigarette packs, in the maximum size possible. The measure, placed at the center of a new cancer plan detailed by Nicolas Sarkozy last November, had almost become policy. But the professional Federation of Tobacco Retailers finally won out, arguing that points of sale should not look like “mortuaries.”

Tobacconists have meanwhile noted that no study has demonstrated the effectiveness of a “demagogic” apparatus, which, they say, excuses the government from launching a costly prevention campaign in the schools, a contention the National Committee Against Tobacco Use refutes, advancing the results of a poll conducted for the National Cancer Institute: “dissuasive visuals strongly reduce teenagers’ desire to start smoking and reinforce the desire not to start of those who have not already fallen into the trap,” the study reports. The CNCT adds that the apparatus has proved itself elsewhere – in Canada, notably – even if the most effective measure to date remains increasing the price of a pack of cigarettes.

Translation: Truthout French Language Editor Leslie Thatcher.