Printing ‘smoking kills’ warnings on individual cigarettes would discourage people from lighting up, researchers say.
Scientists at the University of Stirling in Scotland tested the controversial concept on 120 smokers and asked for their thoughts.
Volunteers told how they felt the warning was off-putting, with many women saying it was a frightening reminder of the dangers of smoking.
But a prominent critic attacked the suggestion, saying there isn’t a single person in Britain who is unaware of the risks of smoking.
Scientists at the University of Stirling in Scotland tested the controversial concept on 120 smokers and asked for their thoughts
‘The consensus was individual cigarettes emblazoned with warnings would be off-putting,’ said lead author Dr Crawford Moodie.
‘This study suggests that the introduction of such warnings could impact the decision-making of these groups.
‘It shows this approach is a viable policy option and one which would – for the first time – extend health messaging to the consumption experience.’
The possibility of warnings on cigarettes is included in the Scottish Government’s tobacco-control action plan.
The blueprint suggests making changes to ‘colour, composition and/or warning messages on each stick’.
Officials in Canada last year announced it would consider forcing manufacturers to print warnings on individual cigarettes.
‘SMOKING MUST BE STAMPED OUT BY 2030’
The Government will aim to end smoking in England by 2030 as part of a range of measures to address preventable ill health.
Its green paper, released in July, said more needs to be done to improve public health.
The paper read: ‘Thanks to our concerted efforts on smoking, we now have one of the lowest smoking rates in Europe.
‘Yet, for the 14 percent of adults who still smoke, it’s the main risk to health.
Smokers are disproportionately located in areas of high deprivation. In Blackpool, one in four pregnant women smoke. In Westminster, it’s one in 50.’
The paper proposed offering stop-smoking help to all cigarette users who are admitted to NHS hospitals.
It said it wants to reduce the smoking rate to 12 per cent by 2022 and to zero by 2030.
‘This includes an ultimatum for industry to make smoked tobacco obsolete by 2030,’ the paper added, ‘with smokers quitting or moving to reduced risk products like e-cigarettes.’
Professor Linda Bauld, Cancer Research UK’s prevention expert, said: ‘Too many young people are still taking up smoking.
‘Government anti-smoking campaigns and tax rises on cigarettes remain the most effective methods to stop young people starting smoking.
‘But we need to continue to explore innovative ways to deter them from using cigarettes to ensure that youth smoking rates continue to drop.
‘This study shows that tactics like making the cigarettes themselves unappealing could be an effective way of doing this.’
All of the smokers in the study were aged 16 or over. The results were published in the journal Addiction Research and Theory.
Participants felt that a warning on each cigarette would prolong the health message, as it would be visible when taken from a pack, lit, left in an ashtray, and with each draw, thus making avoidant behaviour more difficult.
Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) said: ‘Cigarettes are already widely known as cancer sticks – it would be a simple matter to put “smoking causes cancer” on every cigarette to reinforce the message every time a smoker lights up.
‘The government admits its goal of a smokefree England by 2030 is “extremely challenging” and that further measures will be needed if it is to be delivered.
‘Warnings on cigarettes is an obvious next step, they are already under consideration in Canada and Scotland. Smokers themselves say it could help them quit, and it would also be the clearest warning possible to children not to start.’
But Christopher Snowdon, of the Institute of Economic Affairs, said: ‘There isn’t a single person in Britain who is unaware of the risks of smoking.
‘People are bombarded with anti-smoking messages from the day they are born.
‘Cigarette packs are sold with graphic warnings covering two-thirds of the surface area. People smoke despite the risks, not because individual cigarettes haven’t informed them about the risks.
‘After years of being harassed by health zealots, smokers might relish the idea of setting fire to a health warning, but this is not a serious policy.
‘It is a desperate attempt by anti-smoking campaigners to keep themselves in business now that the campaign for plain packaging has ended.’
Simon Clark, director of pro-smoking pressure group Forest, has previously said printing a warning on cigarettes would ‘achieve nothing’.
Smoking is the biggest avoidable cause of cancer and is known to produce chemicals which cause at least 15 different forms of the disease.
Evidence shows it causes around 70 per cent of all cases of lung cancer, which has the highest death count of any form of cancer.
People are drawn to smoking because nicotine can make them feel good, but it’s easy to become addicted and very difficult to quit once smoking becomes a habit.
Around 7.4million people in the UK regularly smoke tobacco, along with about a billion people – mostly men – worldwide.
Government initiatives to cut smoking rates have been introduced regularly over the past 15 years in the UK.
Health warnings on packaging became mandatory in 2002, adverts were banned in 2003 and smoking indoors was banned in 2007.
Officials followed up the measures in 2017 with a policy that meant all branded packaging had to be replaced with plain greenish-brown boxes.
It comes after a study earlier this week found people in England now smoke 1.4billion fewer cigarettes each year than they did at the beginning of the decade.
The University College London research suggested the tougher rules on cigarette packaging and advertising, as well as the indoor smoking ban, have worked.