Health Secretary Andrew Lansley commented recently to The Times that “smoking remains one of the most significant challenges to public health.” Coupled with his statements, government is now keen to follow Australian legislative suit and make all cigarette packages uniquely plain and without branding. The graphic warning images, currently being contested in the United States for breach of freedom of speech, will stay and the hope is that without branding cigarettes will have less appeal to young and potential smokers.
“Each year [smoking] accounts for over 100,000 deaths in the UK and one in two long-term smokers will die prematurely from a smoking disease,” said Lansley, “[which] is why health ministers across the UK have a responsibility to look closely at initiatives that might encourage smokers to quit and stop young people taking up smoking in the first place.”
Government figures suggest that this number, those that try smoking under the age of 16, is well over 300,000 children.
Part of the initiatives referred to by Lansley could be the aforementioned removal of all cigarette packages branding, making it more difficult for people to identify cigarettes and reducing the associative signals many brands send out. In Australia research has suggested that cigarette packs have become increasingly important as a marketing tool since so many advertising industries have had restrictions placed on them against promoting tobacco.
As a result the country has given tobacco firms until the end of 2012 to replace all branding with olive green packaging instead. Although tobacco manufacturers have planned to try and oppose this move.
The stance in England seems far more aggressive.
“We don’t want to work in partnership with the tobacco companies because we are trying to arrive at a point where they have no business in this country,” Lansley said. However, the Health Secretary received criticism for the remarks and potential government action as the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association (TMA) said it welcomed the discussion but was unconvinced plain packaging would have an effect.
“There is no reliable evidence plain packaging will reduce rates of youth smoking,” said Jane Chisholm-Caunt, secretary-general of the TMA, “Smoking initiation in children is actually linked to a complex range of socio-economic factors.”
Smoking rates have fallen significantly since cancer links were established in the 1950s but the number of adults who are quitting smoking has declined in recent years. The hopes are that these packages may provide the extra impetus and more importantly reduce new smokers more as well.
If you are a smoker and would like to quit smoking but have had little success, you can use a stop smoking treatment like Champix. It’s advised you consult your doctor before using any medication to help stop smoking.
Smokers are often perceived as being against all legislation which makes smoking more inconvenient, expensive and unpopular. However, this is not the case. As much as I may love smoking (and I do), I would never suggest that people shouldn’t be made aware of the dangers or that non-smokers should be subjected to the hideous environment which used to be present in public places before the smoking ban. However, the current government’s obsession with ostensibly limiting the number of people who smoke offends me on a socio-political level, and would do equally if I didn’t smoke. The sheer hypocrisy is beyond belief and attempting to create social outcasts out of people who indulge in a perfectly legal activity is borderline fascist. Yes, smoking is a disgusting habit, and yes it’s bad for you but we allow TV shows and newspaper articles which display images of morbidly obese people who are literally eating themselves to death. If this is what we call entertainment in the UK is it any wonder we feel the need to smoke?