Tough action needed on tobacco

cig 2The European Parliament is currently revising the Tobacco Products Directive, which sets out basic rules on the packaging and ingredients of cigarettes and other tobacco products.

A growing number of constituents are writing to their MEPs demanding some tough action, and I completely agree that we need some firm, robust measures to reduce smoking rates.

Tobacco is the UK and Europe’s leading cause of preventable death and disease, and is the only legal product that is lethal when used as intended.    This has a devastating effect on our health system, on our economy, and most importantly on people’s lives.

The measures being proposed by the Commission would be a step forward, such as pictorial health warnings covering 75% of the packet and a ban on ‘characterising flavourings’, but I would like to see the legislation go further.

As with all EU legislation, the European Parliament will now put forward and vote on various amendments to the initial text from the Commission.  This is democracy at work, with your elected representatives doing the job we’re there for; producing effective legislation benefiting our constituents.

As Labour’s Health spokesperson in the Parliament, I will be calling for standardised packaging as mandatory, for the whole EU.   We will also be supporting a ban on all additives that improve the taste of the tobacco.

With advertising now banned, branding on cigarette packets is the only space that the tobacco industry has left to market their products.  Looking at current brands it is clear that many are specifically targeted towards young people, and long, thin, flowery packet designs in light pink and purple are clearly aimed at young women in particular.  Such a deadly and addictive product should only be sold in standardised, unattractive packets with large health warnings.

Cigarette packets should look like they contain a dangerous drug, rather than perfume or lipstick, and cigarettes should taste like tobacco, rather than confectionary.

The Commission’s proposal was released just weeks after Australia implemented entirely standardised packaging.    In Canada all flavourings and additives in cigarettes have been banned.  Europe is being left behind on tobacco control.  It is time for us to catch up with the rest of the world.

I will continue to work closely with the British Heart Foundation on this new legislation, alongside other health stakeholders such as Cancer Research UK, the RNIB, the SmokeFree Partnership, ASH, the Royal College of Physicians and the European Public Health Alliance.

And if we’re successful the new rules should reduce the huge burden of preventable cancers, circulatory and respiratory diseases on our healthcare systems and save tens of thousands of lives.



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  1. Stewart Rogers says:

    This is what LABOUR ministers said just before the last election.

    “as yet, no studies have shown that introducing plain packaging of tobacco would cut the number of young people smoking” Andy Burnham Secretary of State for Health,9/11/2009

    No studies have been undertaken to show that plain packaging of tobacco would cut smoking uptake among young people”
    Gillian Merron, Minister of State for Public Health 06/2009

  2. Stewart Rogers says:

    “there is no evidence base that [plain packaging]actually reduces the number of young children smoking.”
    Alan Johnson Secretary of State for Health, House of Commons debate, 16 December 2008

  3. Stewart Rogers says:

    This is what the Department of Health said when Labour was in govt “Consultation on the future of tobacco control” May 2008

    “Children may be encouraged to take up smoking if plain packages were introduced, as it could be seen as rebellious”

    “The research evidence into this [plain packaging] initiative is speculative,relying on asking people what they might do in a certain situation.”

    So was Labour Govt wrong in 2008?

  4. Stewart Rogers says:

    Do you disagree with the Department of Health conclusion from the last tobacco consultation conducted by Labour govt..

    “The introduction of plain packaging for tobacco products may set a precedent for the plain packaging of other consumer products that may be damaging to health, such as fast food or alcohol.”
    Department of Health “Consultation on the future of tobacco control”, May 2008

    Very confusing for the average voter to work out why Labour has undertaken such a dramatic U-turn.

  5. Martin says:

    Do you really think that a plain packet will stop people smoking? Smokers couldn’t care a less what the packet looks like, it’s the taste of the tobacco that matters. You’re either really out of touch with reality or doing what you’re told by the EU.

  6. Paul Kendrick says:

    Article 3.7 seems to want ex smokers to start again!

  7. Since 2008 a lot of research has been carried out into standardised packaging. A 2012 systematic review of the evidence by the University of Stirling showed that studies consistently found plain packaging helpful in three ways: “by increasing the prominence and effectiveness of health warnings; by making the pack, and thereby smoking, less appealing and removing the confusion about relative harm which pack design can cause.”

    • nath says:

      admit it, you just made that up. All plain packaging will do is make cheaper cigarettes as appealing as the premium brands. If research was a reflection on the general public, then how do you explain how every person i have ever spoke to thinks differently to you?

    • MJR PEEL says:

      And there are countless reports that suggest the exact opposite. The lies and junk science behind this and other smoking related studies are trawled to justify the prejudices of yourself and others. Frankly, anyone, including yourself, who continues to foist these nannying, sanctimonious, righteous rules on people based on the sort of tosh you quote above is thoroughly undeserving of any public office at the taxpayers expense.

  8. Andy Burnham has been clear that he supports standardised packaging.
    The main aim of the measure is to prevent young people from starting smoking, rather than convincing those already addicted to nicotine to stop. Flavourings will also be addressed in the directive, because many flavourings make tobacco more palatable for children.

    • nath says:

      Smoking has nothing to do with flavourings or packaging. Smoking is 100% to do with peer pressure. No-one has ever looked at a packet of cigarettes and thought “hmmm, that brightly coloured package looks interesting, i will buy and smoke them”. Get in the real world.

      Viscous people like you should have no standing, hardly anyone voted for you, and now you are dictating their lives. But thats what the EU is, isn’t it? A dictatorship. LISTEN TO YOUR CONSTITUENTS!

  9. Nick Ashton says:

    While I don’t agree with the party’s adopted view on cigarette packaging etc I’m more concerned with the elements of the directive that seem to be aimed at killing electronic cigarettes.

    This link illustrates the arguments better than I could:

    even ASH are critical

    As Labour’s health spokesperson can you state the party’s position on this part of the proposed legislation?

  10. I have one enormous concern.
    Eliquid has no place in a tobacco or a medical setting. It is relatively new but up to 80% of those who try ‘vaping’ stop smoking and use safe nicotine. Recreational limits are too low, medicalising will break it. Ms Willmot, if you continue to back this part of the TPD you will be responsible for millions returning to smoking and the death of the 20% who always remain regardless of anti-smoking work.
    Read the independent studies, not just the pharmaceutical ones.

  11. Gordon Beard says:

    The stated aim of ENVI and the Commission is to reduce tobacco smoking by 2% . Why could you not be much more ambitious and instead of having a totally negative attitude towards e-cigs, PV.(Personal Vapers) and you potentially could see a genuine far higher success rate .

    As the leader of the Labour MEP. and allied to the 2nd largest group in the EU. I would like you to adopt a far more open -minded approach please read the current article on this subject in The Economist also Clive Bates

  12. MJR PEEL says:

    Young people are more likely to take up smoking as a consequence. Which bit of the fable of forbidden fruit don’t you people understand? And yet again, there is absolutely ZERO evidence in support off this assertion.

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