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Tobacco: public perceptions and the role of the industry

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The paper briefly examines the substantial risks of smoking, and how people's perception of them may be influenced by tobacco control policy and by the activities of the tobacco industry. The comparative lack of effectiveness of the self-regulation system of implementing tobacco control policy is noted, illustrated by the example of cigarette pack health warnings, from the first examples under the voluntary system to the significantly more robust and effective pictorial warnings system pioneered by Canada and implemented by legislation, similar to measures recently approved by the European Union. Other aspects of tobacco control policy are discussed, including health education, restricting the promotion of tobacco and changing the social acceptability of smoking. Three areas of success in the UK—taxation, the leadership of doctors and sustained media advocacy—are described; and the paper concludes by looking at prospects for the future, with the forthcoming ban on most forms of tobacco promotion and the challenge of responding to growing demands to protect non-smokers from exposure to other people's tobacco smoke in the workplace and in public places.
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Keywords: Public perception; Smoking risks; Tobacco control policy; Tobacco industry

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: International Agency on Tobacco and Health, London, UK

Publication date: 01 June 2003

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