Health experts have called for gas pumps to have ‘graphics’ of the damage caused by vehicle emissions to our bodies, similar to those that must be legally displayed on cigarette packs.
Environmentalists from the UK, US and India, writing in the British Medical Journal, said images of lung damage caused by air pollution would be an inexpensive and effective way to encourage people to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels.
They said horrific images should be displayed at the point of sale to make the biggest impact, such as on petrol and diesel pumps in gas stations, on airline tickets and even on energy bills.
Health warning: A report published this week by experts in the British Medical Journal calls for gas pumps, airline tickets and utility bills to have graphic images of the damage fossil fuel emissions have on our bodies
Like the horrifying health warnings on cigarette packets, warning labels should clearly state that “ continuing to burn fossil fuels is exacerbating climate change, with major expected health effects increasing over time, ” the BMJ report said.
It says that fossil fuels, such as smoking, harm others from air pollution, which is responsible for about 3.5 million premature deaths each year.
There is also the broader impact on climate change, which increasingly threatens the health of current and future generations.
And while fossil fuel use is already subject to government intervention in many countries, for example through fuel taxes and vehicle emissions standards, “these are insufficient to prevent dangerous climate change and do not reflect the full economic costs of burning fossil fuels,” health experts claim.
Earlier this month, the chancellor confirmed that the fuel tax – the amount of tax paid on a gallon of gasoline and diesel – would remain frozen for the tenth time in a row.
The BMJ report adds: “Warning labels link the abstract threat of the climate emergency to the use of fossil fuels in the here and now.
Graphics such as health warnings have been on cigarette packs and tobacco products in the UK since 2008
“They sensitize people to the consequences of their actions and represent a push to encourage users to choose alternatives to fossil fuels, increasing the demand for renewable energy without carbon.”
According to the World Health Organization, there is “substantial evidence from a wide range of studies” that supports the effectiveness of graphics on tobacco warning labels on tobacco consumption.
In the UK, these images have been shown since 2008, but according to WHO they have had less impact on smokers than in Australia.
A study on adults in Great Britain published by Health Education Research last year found clear evidence that the horrifying images work.
“In conclusion, we found that smokers with lower nicotine addiction were deterred from purchasing cigarettes when graphic health warning labels were present as compared to when they were absent,” the study said.
Dr. Mike Gill, a former regional director of public health and colleagues who contributed to the new BMJ report, said adding these images could change public attitudes and behavior.
Gill and fellow health experts acknowledged that implementing warnings will face challenges, but say the initial focus should be on ‘high-income countries that have disproportionately contributed to greenhouse gas emissions and major sources of greenhouse gas emissions in emerging economies where they are rising fast ‘.
The report also called for additional policies, such as increasing ad restrictions for fuel companies, notably to avoid misleading claims about their renewable energy investments.
They said creepy images should be displayed at the point of sale – like on gas stations in gas stations – to make the biggest impact
Health experts also called on governments to take urgent, decisive steps to raise awareness of personal choices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and to implement national policies to decarbonise the economy.
National and local authorities have the opportunity to implement fossil fuel labeling in the run-up to COP26 in Glasgow, and in particular for the UK government, hosting the COP, to demonstrate leadership as part of a package of measures to address accelerate progress towards’ Net Zero ’emissions,’ they write.
“When the Covid-19 pandemic finally subsided, labeling could play an important role in reducing the risk of a rapid recovery in greenhouse gas emissions as the economy expands,” the report concluded.
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