Will seeing the damage stop smokers?

World Cancer Day, on Monday February 4th, ironically coincided with the launch of graphic pictures depicting diseased lungs and mouths on Irish smoking packets.

According to Cancer Research UK, smoking causes more than four in every five cases of lung cancer and increases an individual’s risk of contracting over a dozen different cancers. It is also the most preventable cause of cancer in the world.

Not all smoking packets contain the graphics just yet. “The Minister for Health has given tobacco companies until 2014 to get rid of their stockpiled products,” says Rachel Foley of the Irish Cancer Society. “But by this time next year there will be none.”

The images have been attacked by pro-smoking groups such as Forest Éireann, a group which supports the right of adults to smoke legal product without “undue harassment and discrimination”. The group is not representative of the tobacco industry, but does accept donations from it.

But the evidence that smoking causes multiple forms of cancer is overwhelming and undeniable. “The mutations [caused by smoking] can be seen in every organ of the body,” says Geraldine Murray of Laya Healthcare. Types of cancers that are shown to be affected by smoking include mouth cancers, liver, pancreas, stomach, kidney, bladder, cervix, nose, pharynx and oesophagus.

Noelle Ryan of the Oesophageal Cancer Fund told The College View that the launch of the graphic pictures is very much welcome: “anything that would assist people in giving up.” Indeed, a survey carried out by the Irish Cancer Fund in 2008 found that 70% of smokers in Ireland wanted to quit. “Hopefully it will help motivate those people to give up,” says Rachel Foley. “We hope it will deter young people too.”

Businesses such as Helsinn Birex Pharmaceuticals Ltd, which manufactures drugs to enhance quality of life for cancer sufferers, think that if the ban works, it will be a good thing. “Hopefully it will detract from the coolness of smoking,” says HR officer Andrew Hayes, who organised a fund-raising event for World Cancer Day in the company headquarters. Money raised is going towards ARC, a cancer support centre based in Dublin which provides free holistic and emotional support to cancer sufferers, especially those recently diagnosed.

Nurse Geraldine Murray told The College View that she applauds the move by the government, that following in Australia’s footsteps is a good plan. “The (written) warnings are not enough. There’s nothing like a picture message. If you could see the damage on the outside that’s being done on the inside, then people wouldn’t smoke.”

But only time will tell if the graphic images prove to be effective.

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