‘Smoking kills’ could be printed on individual cigarettes in new hard-hitting measures introduced by MPs to encourage people to quit the habit.
MPs have submitted an amendment to the health and care bill first introduced in parliament in July. The proposal would allow the health secretary to make the messaging mandatory on individual cigarettes.
“We know that cigarettes are cancer sticks and kill half the people who use them. So I hope that health warnings on cigarettes would deter people from being tempted to smoke in the first place, especially young people,” said Mary Kelly Foy, the Labour MP leading the move.
“I hope it would encourage some smokers to give up because if they are putting that in their mouth and seeing that message on cigarettes every time they smoke, I hope it would have the desired effect.”
Sir George Young, a former Conservative cabinet minister first introduced the proposed health warnings on cigarettes when he was a health minister in Margaret Thatcher’s government but was unsuccessful. Now a peer, and vice chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health, he has introduced a private member’s bill into the House of Lords to make his proposal law.
“As health minister I suggested health warnings on cigarettes might help more people quit smoking. The tobacco companies told me this would make cigarettes more dangerous, as the ink was carcinogenic. Plainly this is nonsense given that tobacco already contains 70 cancer causing chemicals,” Sir George said.
Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), said: “Cigarettes not cigarette packs kill smokers, so obviously the sticks themselves are where health warnings are most needed. As a health minister, George Young proposed just that, but Big Tobacco thwarted him.”
Cancer Research UK is also backing the amendment and has provided funding for research that found warnings on individual cigarettes could be effective in making smoking less appealing to young people
The amendment proposed by Ms Foy would allow the government to impose new levies on tobacco company profits and use the funds to support stop smoking groups.
The amended bill also takes aim at e-cigarette makers, proposing a stop on marketing tactics that could entice children such as sweet flavourings and cartoon characters. In addition, make it illegal for e-cigarette makers to give away free samples.
Health warnings on cigarettes, also known as dissuasive cigarettes, is a measure under active consideration around the world. It was recommended by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health to help meet the government’s target of making England smoke free by 2030.
Simon Clark, director of pro-smokers’ group Forest, criticised the amendment saying there is no evidence that it will reduce smoking or discourage younger people from taking it up.
“These stale and tired ideas have been around for years,” Mr Clark said. “Everyone is aware of the health risks of smoking. There are huge, impossible to miss health warnings on every pack of cigarettes including grotesque images of smoking-related diseases...If adults still choose to smoke that is a matter for them not for government.
The Independent approached the Department of Health and Social Care for comment.
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