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Should fireworks boxes show violent injuries and warnings?

Doctors want firework boxes to mirror cigarette packaging by showing violent injuries and safety warnings.


What it means: A campaign by senior plastic surgeons is attempting to make it a legal requirement to cover firework boxes with large danger warnings and photographs of gruesome fireworks-caused injuries, à la cigarette packets. The point is to stop so many people rocking up to A&E with real-life versions. NHS data shows that 4,500 people went to hospital with firework injuries last year, double the number admitted in 2009. Half were children.

The proposal is popular - 62 percent of adults support it. But do warnings on packaging work? A study by Harvard Business Review says no, because we see so many of them that we’ve become desensitised. But other studies disagree. And one by Reuters says that when warnings are combined with icky photographs people are 29 percent more likely to stay away from that product.

It’s quite common for governments to set rules on things like how businesses package and sell stuff. This is called regulation and most people think we need at least some of it to make sure that buying and selling is done fairly and safely. But people disagree on how much regulation is enough.

Some people think we should take responsibility for our own actions, and it’s not the government’s job to attempt to stop us from accidentally blowing ourselves up. Indeed, Matt Hancock, the UK’s health and social care secretary, recently gave a (criticised) speech saying people should “take greater responsibility for managing their own health”.

It’s also important to weigh the benefits of any regulation against the disadvantages it forces on some people. In this case, businesses that sell fireworks will end up making less money if warning labels stop sales.

Read our explainers on government regulation.

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