A couple of months back, the Ministry of Health and Welfare of South Korea, put in place a regulation that forces cigarette manufacturers to put graphic images of the harmful effects of smoking on cigarette packets. There are 10 different stirring pictures showing deadly conditions such as lung cancer or laryngeal cancer, and they cover both sides of the cigarette packs.
Additionally the number of calls received on smoking-cessation consultation line, 1544-9030, have also increased significantly. From 330 in December, to 587 in January, and an astounding 1,214 only in first two weeks of February. Most importantly 80 percent of those who called to seek assistance, said that the horrific images were the catalyst behind their call.
Lim Min-kyung, Professor at the National Cancer Center, who oversees the consultation line, said, “Normally in January, the number of smoking cessation consultations and clinic enrollments increases due to New Year’s resolutions, but it isn’t common for there to be an increase in February,” adding, “Due to the graphical warnings, it appears the consultations will continue to increase.”
This data will most certainly come as good news to UK health officials who are adopting a similar strategy. As from May 2017, all cigarette packs in the UK must be sold in plain packaging, with nothing to distinguish them from one another besides the brand names at the bottom of the packs and very prominent health warnings which will cover 65% of the packet surface, back and front.
Next step : A ban on covering warning images
In the meantime a member of staff from the Division of Health Promotion at the Health Ministry of Korea, Kwon Byeong-gi, added, “There are plans to legislate the banning of obscuring the graphic warnings in display stores by retail stores as soon as possible, considering those who experience revulsion from the graphic images, we will also intensify TV campaigns to raise awareness.”