Egyptian anti-smoking warning labels

Egyptian health officials have been gearing up for anti-smoking campaign for a few months, and a few weeks ago new warning labels appeared on the humble Masri pack of Cleopatras and other local and international brands. It's a big marketing shift in a country of permanent smokers where the state-owned monopoly cigarette manufacturer, Oriental Tobacco, has never had to deal with any real pressure on public health issues and the price of cigarettes is almost as politically strategic as the price of baladi bread, and where illnesses that can be caused or exarcebated by smoking, such as heart disease, are a major cause of deaths.

The AP has a story out on the new labels, and the gory labels themselves are after the jump.
CAIRO, Egypt - Offering a cigarette is as common as a handshake in Egypt, where the culture of smoking is so entrenched that patients and friends sometimes light up in hospital rooms. But now, the government is finally getting serious about the health risks, launching a new campaign of stark visual warnings about tobacco's dangers.

Starting Aug. 1, cigarette labels in Egypt will be required to carry images of the effects of smoking: a dying man in an oxygen mask, a coughing child, and a limp cigarette symbolizing impotence.

It's a major step in Egypt's fledgling anti-smoking campaign and a dramatic change in a country where public discussion of smoking's health risks is nearly nonexistent.

. . .

For the new label requirements, authorities field-tested a variety of images.

They found that warnings linking tobacco with death were not particularly effective with Egyptians, since dying is perceived as inevitable anyway. Also, images of diseased lungs left people confused about what was being shown.

Instead, the new warnings focus on threats to health and, particularly, to family, like the effect on children and pregnant women and the risk of impotence. Numerous studies, including a 2003 report by Tulane University researchers, have found that smoking can be a major cause of erectile disfunction, in part because it constricts veins and arteries, reducing blood flow.

"We need something to give the smokers a shock that they are in great danger," said Dr. Mohammed Mehrez, head of the tobacco control department.

There are many myths to overcome.

Some Egyptians are convinced only light cigarettes lead to impotence. Earlier this year, the state-owned manufacturer Eastern Tobacco Company voluntarily put pictures of diseased lungs on some packs — but smokers just figured those packs were the ones that were harmful and switched to others, which some shopowners promptly started selling at a higher price.

[From Egypt's new tools in war on smoking: Stark warnings on impotence, disease]


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