The UK should brandish individual cigarettes with health warning labels under reforms to stamp out smoking, experts have said.
It would match the step taken by Canada this week, in a world first move, to make it ‘virtually impossible’ for smokers to ignore the dangers of smoking.
The country’s health chiefs hope phrases including ‘poison in every puff’ and ‘cigarettes cause cancer’ will help curb tobacco use.
Widely welcomed by Canadian health bodies, Conservative peer, Lord George Young – who has spent four decades lobbying for a similar UK law – urged the Government ‘to follow suit’.
He said: ‘I congratulate Canada on being the first to take forward this sensible public health measure.
Canada yesterday revealed it would start printing health warning labels onto individual cigarettes in a world first move. Coming into force on August 1, the country hopes it will help curb tobacco use in Canada to less than 5 per cent by 2035. Health Canada also believes by April 2025, retailers in Canada will only carry tobacco products with the new warning labels
According to the latest Office for National Statistics’ Annual Population Survey (blue line), one in eight adults in Britain were frequent users in 2021, down by five per cent on the previous year. Meanwhile, 4million over-16s now use e-cigarettes — up by a fifth in just 12 months (red line)
Javed Khan, a former children’s charity chief who was tasked with finding ways Britain could stick to its smoke-free target, warned in August 2022 that England is set to miss the target by at least seven years. He suggested hiking the age limit for purchasing cigarettes in England, currently set at 18, by 12 months every year until no-one can legally buy a tobacco product
‘When I proposed it in the 1970s it was a reasonable and proportionate response to a lethal product. This remains the case more than 40 years later.’
Last year Lord Young also proposed tobacco manufacturers use eight different warnings in rotation on its sticks and rolling paper under the terms of the Cigarette Stick Health Warnings Bill.
The bill is currently in its second reading stage in the House of Commons, having passed the House of Lords.
Currently picture health warnings must cover 65 per cent of the front and back of every packet of cigarettes in the UK, with additional warnings on the top, under rules introduced in 2016.
Health Canada hopes that phrases including ‘poison in every puff’ and ‘cigarettes cause cancer’ will make it ‘virtually impossible’ for smokers to ignore warnings
Meanwhile, Hazel Cheeseman, Deputy Chief Executive of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) said: ‘Warnings on cigarette sticks and papers would reinforce the message to smokers about the harms.
She added: ‘Particularly children who are more likely to be given a cigarette than adult smokers and hence avoid the health warnings on packs.’
Canada first adopted pictorial warning requirements for tobacco product packages in 2000 to increase awareness of the health hazards and health effects associated with tobacco use.
Current health-related messages and images for cigarettes and little cigars have been in place since 2011.
The country hopes the new move – set to be introduced on August 1 – will help in its efforts to cut tobacco use in Canada to less than 5 per cent by 2035.
How dangerous is smoking for the heart?
How does tobacco damage the heart?
Tobacco smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, including tar and others that can narrow arteries and damage blood vessels.
While nicotine – a highly addictive toxin found in tobacco – is heavily linked with dangerous increases in heart rate and blood pressure.
Smoking also unleashes poisonous gases such as carbon monoxide, which replaces oxygen in the blood – reducing the availability of oxygen for the heart.
How many people does smoking kill?
Smoking is known to kill more than seven million people across the world each year, including 890,000 from breathing in second-hand smoke.
But many people are unaware that nearly half of those deaths, around three million, are due to heart disease, including heart attacks and strokes.
Health Canada believes by April 2025, retailers in Canada will only carry tobacco products with the new warning labels.
In a statement, Health Canada, said: ‘Labelling the tipping paper of individual cigarettes, little cigars, tubes, and other tobacco products will make it virtually impossible to avoid health warnings altogether.’
According to Canadian minister of mental health and addictions and associate minister of health, Carolyn Bennett, tobacco use kills 48,000 Canadians each year.
The updated graphic images displayed on packaging, ‘will provide a real and startling reminder of the health consequences of smoking’, she said.
‘We will continue to do whatever it takes to help more people in Canada stop smoking and help young people to live healthy tobacco-free lives,’ she added.
Around one in eight Brits and Americans report smoking cigarettes now, compared to nearly half in the 1970s.
The UK Government aims to slash smoking rates to just five per cent by 2030, but in December Cancer Research UK forecasted the goal was unlikely to be met until 2039 based on current trends.
In recent months Government advisers have also called for smoking to be banned on pavements outside pubs and restaurants.
Smoking kills around 78,000 people in the UK every year, with many more living with illnesses due to their habit, half of which are due to cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attack and stroke.
It is estimated that around 500,000 hospital admissions every year in England are attributable to smoking and that smoking costs the economy £17billion per year.
Of this, £2.4billion falls on the NHS, £1.19billion falls on the social care system, and over £13billion is lost in productivity costs from tobacco-related lost earnings, unemployment and premature death.
The 7,000 chemicals in tobacco — including tar and others that can narrow arteries and damage blood vessels — are thought to be behind some of the damage smoking inflicts on the heart.
Meanwhile, nicotine — a highly addictive toxin found in tobacco — is heavily linked with dangerous increases in heart rate and blood pressure.
Smoking also unleashes poisonous gases such as carbon monoxide, which replaces oxygen in the blood — reducing the availability of oxygen for the heart.