Consultation launches on quit messages in tobacco packs
SMOKERS could see quit messages offering stop smoking support inside every cigarette and tobacco pack under new plans announced today.
Fresh and North East cancer-survivor Sue Mountain welcomed proposals from the government for mandatory pack inserts inside tobacco packs with positive messages signposting quitting advice and support at the point of reaching for every cigarette.
Smoking remains the single leading preventable cause of illness and death in the UK and is the biggest cause of cancer. It causes nearly 450,000 hospital admissions a year – around 4% of all admissions. Tobacco harms are also estimated to cost taxpayers an estimated £21 billion every year, including over £2 billion in costs to the NHS – nearly £1bn a year to the NHS, the economy and to local authorities in the North East.
A survey earlier in 2023 found 69% of North East adults support information about quitting in pack inserts (YouGov 2023).
Ailsa Rutter OBE, Director of Fresh and Balance, said: “We have graphic warnings on the outside of packs which are a powerful reminder of the risks of smoking. Pack inserts on the inside would be another reminder and can provide smokers with the best advice on how to succeed in quitting.
“Quitting messages in packs have already proved easy and cheap to implement in Canada and proved effective. We know tobacco kills up to 2 in 3 smokers with the risks rising the longer people wait to quit.
But she added: “This is welcome but is a small step and the question is why we would not include quitting messages inside a pouch of cancer-causing tobacco or a box of 20 toxic cigarettes. We need bold new measures on smoking with a new national tobacco plan and make big tobacco fund prevention through a levy.”
“More reminders to quit will help not just the Smokefree 2030 ambition, but also the Major Conditions Strategy, as smoking is responsible for all six major conditions from cancer to cardiovascular and respiratory disease, as well as dementia, mental ill health and musculo-skeletal disorders.”
The consultation marks the further evolution of tobacco packs from glossy boxes. Health warnings were first introduced in 1971, graphic picture warnings in 2007 and standardised, plain packs without branding and with larger warnings in 2016.
Mum of three Sue Mountain, 57, from South Shields, started smoking aged 11. She underwent laser treatment aged 48 after a biopsy revealed she had laryngeal cancer in 2012. The cancer then returned in 2015 and then again in 2017 but she is now cancer free.
Sue said: “When you smoke, you tell yourself you know all the risks but you’re addicted and deep down you don’t ever really believe it will actually happen to you.
“Without those reminders it’s too easy to put it off to another day. That is why the Government needs to be reminding people not just to quit smoking but how to quit smoking. They need to be doing it wherever and whenever they can – on TV, on posters, on the radio and on cigarette packs. Otherwise it’s just too easy to ignore.
“It might be a minor inconvenience for the tobacco industry but if it helps just one more person quit smoking and avoid cancer, heart attack, dementia or COPD then it’s worth it and a small price to pay.”
The consultation – which opens today – will seek views on the introduction and design of pack inserts.
Pack inserts are already used in other countries – including Canada and Israel – and there is evidence that they can be an effective means of encouraging smokers to quit. An evaluation of the policy’s impact in Canada found that almost 1 in 3 smokers had read the inserts at least once in the past month, and that those who were exposed to the inserts multiple times were significantly more likely to quit smoking.