CEO of Australia’s eye health and vision care peak body is hailing Saturday’s landmark roll out of plain packaging tobacco products as a crucial step in saving the sight of millions of Australians at risk of eye disease caused by smoking.
“The Government’s commitment to reducing the devastating effects of tobacco on Australians through the changes to tobacco packaging is a win for Australian eye health,” Vision 2020 Australia’s Jennifer Gersbeck said.
“Millions of Australians are unnecessarily exposing themselves to an increased risk of eye disease through smoking every day. Any move to reduce smoking rates in Australia is a positive step towards eliminating avoidable blindness,” she said.
Smokers are more at risk of age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy and some infections of the eyes. These eye diseases can be caused or sped up by smoking, leading to possible permanent vision loss or even blindness.
Ms Gersbeck said the Government’s recognition of eye disease was reflected in the recent national TV advertising campaign ‘Smoking causes blindness’ and further cemented with the ‘Smoking causes blindness’ graphic health warning displayed on tobacco products.
The graphic health warning is one of seven mandated health warnings that must appear in rotation on the new plain packaged cigarettes from 1 December for at least eight months.
Australians will see the size of the graphic health warnings increase to cover at least 75 per cent of the front surface of most tobacco product packaging, making the health warnings more prominent.
“While most people are aware that smoking is not good for their health, many are still surprised to learn that smokers are more at risk of vision loss.”
“Highlighting the link between eye disease and smoking on cigarette packets is a positive step towards educating smokers about the risks of smoking and vision loss but also to inform those considering taking up the habit.”
“Vision 2020 Australia hopes the Australian reforms will encourage other countries to follow suit to reduce the number of people worldwide who go blind or lose their vision due to smoking,” Ms Gersbeck said.
Louise Rudzki, Vision 2020 Australia, (03) 9656 2020, firstname.lastname@example.org