The World Health Organization is urging world governments to require all tobacco packaging to include images of sickness and suffering caused by tobacco use, along with written warnings.

The U.N. agency says tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death, killing more than five million people worldwide yearly.  

WHO says tobacco is the only legal consumer product that kills when used exactly as intended by the manufacturer.   

WHO reports countries that have included warning pictures on cigarette packs and other tobacco products have found it to be an effective tool in helping smokers kick the habit and preventing others from starting.

However, only a tenth of the world's population lives in countries requiring warning pictures, and ignorance about the consequences of smoking still prevails.

A survey this year in China revealed that only 37 percent of people knew that smoking causes heart disease, while only 17 percent knew that it causes stroke.  

WHO's call to action comes ahead of Sunday's World No Tobacco Day. 


Some information for this report was provided by AP.