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Promotion of Graphic Cigarette Pack Warnings Using Facebook

Note: World Lung Foundation united with The Union North America. From January 2016, the combined organization is known as “Vital Strategies.”

(New York) –  Today World Lung Foundation released an application on Facebook® Platform that allows users to add rotten teeth, throat tumors, bleeding brains and other smokingrelated illnesses to their profile pictures or pictures of friends. Users place the altered images on a generic pack of cigarettes and share them. The application, named Pack Head, is intended to raise awareness and support for graphic pack warnings, which are more effective at communicating the harms of smoking than standard text.

Pack Head uses pack images collected from around the world that have been effective in educating people about the many illnesses that result from smoking. Users can alter their own profile pictures or any photos with images of mouth and throat cancer, emphysema, blindness and cardiovascular diseases such as stroke, heart disease, peripheral vascular disease and erectile dysfunction. Users also see and send facts about the various potential consequences of smoking.

“The tobacco industry has always made innovative use of the media to promote its products. Research shows that kids are being exposed to pro‐smoking messages through new media such as social networking sites, blogs and YouTube,” said Becky Freeman, a tobacco control researcher at the University of Sydney. “It took decades for tobacco control advocates to counter the industry's use of conventional media so I applaud World Lung Foundation's ‘Packhead' effort for bringing engaging tobacco control messaging to Facebook Platform.”

“Our immediate objective for Pack Head is to grow awareness of and create more demand for this important public health intervention,” said Sandra Mullin, Senior Vice President, Communications, World Lung Foundation. “This also will be a good experiment for the use of social media beyondfundraising and community organizing and more as a tool for social marketing.”

Tobacco use is the leading preventable agent of death in the world today, and is responsible for more than five million deaths each year – one in ten adults worldwide. Within 25 years the death toll from tobacco will climb to more than eight million people per year, and it is estimated that half of all people who smoke today will eventually be killed by the direct or indirect effects of tobacco.

Graphic warnings are an important part of a package of policy interventions articulated in the WHO's MPOWER report. The report provides a roadmap for governments to implement the FCTC and to make such actions sustainable. The six interventions outlined in the MPOWER Report are:

  • Monitoring the epidemic and prevention policies
  • Protecting people from secondhand smoke
  • Offering help to quit tobacco use
  • Warning about the dangers of tobacco
  • Enforcing bans on tobacco advertising and promotion
  • Raising taxes and prices.

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