‘Smoking kills’ warnings could be printed on every individual cigarette and the legal age for buying the tobacco products raised from 18 to 21 under new proposals from MPs.
The measures have been submitted as part of an amendment to the Health and Care bill currently going through Parliament.
Labour MP Mary Kelly Foy, who is behind the amendment, said the updated warnings would help the government achieve its goal of making England smoke-free by 2030 – meaning only five per cent of people would be smokers, as opposed to the current 14 per cent.
The MP for Durham City said ‘bold action’ was needed to bring down smoking numbers, adding: ‘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.
‘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.’
The amendment is also calling for a new levy on tobacco profits and stricter regulations on e-cigarettes, and has received widespread support from expert bodies, including Cancer Research UK and the Royal College of Physicians.
Conservative peer and former health minister under Margaret Thatcher, Sir George Young, has also introduced a private member’s bill into the House of Lords, which would demand that cigarettes also carry the message: ‘Smoking causes cancer.’
Labour MP Mary Kelly Foy, who is behind the amendment, said the updated warnings would help the government achieve its goal of making England smoke-free by 2030 – meaning only five per cent of people would light up, as opposed to the current 14 per cent (file photo)
The new smoking laws proposed in the amendment to the Health and Care bill
An amendment to the Health and Care bill currently making its way through Parliament hopes to crack down on smoking by introducing tougher laws on consumers and companies.
Spearheaded by Labour MP for Durham City Mary Kelly Foy, the amendment demands:
- The legal age to buy cigarettes be raised from 18 to 21
- Every cigarette has a warning printed on it, such as: ‘Smoking kills’
- The Government is granted the power to introduce a ‘polluter pays’ levy on the profits of tobacco companies – which will be invested into stop smoking campaigns
- E-cigarette companies no longer be allowed to ‘entice children’ with fruity flavours and cartoon characters
- E-cigarette makers be banned from giving away free samples
He said back in June: ‘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.
‘In the intervening years the evidence that warnings on cigarettes would help smokers quit has grown.
‘This is a simple measure with minimal cost that could help deliver the Government’s Smokefree 2030 ambition.’
In a poll this summer conducted by YouGov for Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), 70 per cent of those surveyed supported the proposal for health warnings to be printed on cigarette sticks, two thirds of them strongly.
Only 8 per cent opposed the idea with the remainder answering that they neither supported nor opposed the proposal or didn’t know (22 per cent).
Since October 2008, tobacco companies have been required to display picture-based health warnings on their packaging, including sickly cancer patients and those suffering from other smoking-related diseases.
But Ms Foy also wants firms to be forced to include health information messages inside packets.
Deborah Arnott, chief executive of ASH, said: ‘Warnings on cigarettes were suggested over 40 years ago by then health minister George Young.
‘The tobacco companies, with breathtaking hypocrisy, protested that the ink would be toxic to smokers.
‘The truth is cigarette stick warnings are toxic to big tobacco and this is an idea whose time has come.’
The amendment has received cross-party support, including endorsements from Tory MP Bob Blackman, shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth and shadow justice secretary Alex Cunningham.
Under the proposal, the Government would be granted the power to introduce a new levy on tobacco companies’ profits.
The proceeds from the new levy would be funnelled into stop smoking activities.
The amendment has received cross-party support, including endorsements from Tory MP Bob Blackman, shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth and shadow justice secretary Alex Cunningham (file photo)
The amendment also takes a shot at e-cigarette makers, demanding an end to marketing tactics that could encourage children to take up the habit, such as sweet flavourings and cartoon characters.
It also wants to make it illegal for e-cigarette companies to give away free samples.
Mr Blackman, the chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on smoking and health, added: ‘As the chief medical officer Prof Chris Whitty says, big tobacco is an industry which “kills for profit”.
‘Profits are obscenely high, two to three times greater than companies selling consumer necessities like food and drink.
‘Our “polluter pays” levy is both necessary and justified.’
But the amendment has been criticised by pro-smoking group Forest.
Its director Simon Clark said: ‘These stale and tired ideas have been around for years.
Some 14.1 per cent of adults in the UK smoke, the lowest the figure has ever been. However almost 64,000 people died from smoking in England alone in 2019 (file photo)
‘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.
‘Tobacco is sold in standardised packaging and banned from display in shops. Enough is enough.
‘If adults still choose to smoke that is a matter for them, not the government.’
Some 14.1 per cent of adults in the UK smoke, the lowest the figure has ever been.
However almost 64,000 people died from smoking in England alone in 2019.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson told Mail Online: ‘Smoking remains the leading preventable cause of premature death and while rates are at record low levels in the UK there are still 6.1 million smokers in England and a stark difference in rates across the country and among different groups.
‘We will set out how we address this and deliver our bold ambition to be smoke free by 2030 in our new Tobacco Control Plan.’