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Thursday, 20 April, 2000, 08:56 GMT 09:56 UK
Impotence warning for cigarette packs
Most smokers unaware of impotence risk
Cigarette packs are to carry impotence warnings, under European Union (EU) plans.

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  • The move comes as part of an effort to advise smokers of all the health dangers associated with tobacco.

    The new messages may simply state "smoking causes impotence", or may give a more detailed description of the potential risk.

    In this case, packets will carry the warning: "Smoking causes impotence; smoking may cause sexual impotence due to decreased blood flow to the penis. This can prevent you having an erection."

    The tobacco companies have spent a fortune trying to persuade people that smoking is sexy, macho and cool, but an impotence warning would bring home the sad and embarrassing reality

    Clive Bates, ASH
    MEPs are currently working with the EU's Council of Ministers to finalise the wording of the warning.

    They are proposing that the messages include a graphic image of a long, drooping ash - similar to a warning being introduced in Canada.

    The UK government is understood to be in favour of the impotence warning after research by the British Medical Association showed most men are unaware of the link between smoking and erection problems.

    The BMA says up to 120,000 British men in their thirties and forties are impotent because they smoke.

    The new health warnings will be included in an EU directive on the manufacture, presentation and sale of tobacco products that the government will implement.


    A meeting of the Council of Ministers' working party on health also proposed other messages, including "smoking causes ageing of the skin" and "smoking is addictive", be used in addition to current warnings.

    Clive Bates, director of Action on Smoking and Health, said: "The tobacco companies have spent a fortune trying to persuade people that smoking is sexy, macho and cool, but an impotence warning would bring home the sad and embarrassing reality.

    "If people are going to make their minds up whether or not to smoke the tobacco manufacturers and the government have a duty to lay out the risks as clear and blunt warnings. This is what the new proposal will achieve."

    Martin Ball at Forest, which campaigns for smokers' rights, said: "It is just typical of the anti-smoking nonsense. They are getting increasingly desperate in their attempts to cajole, persuade and persecute adults into giving up smoking.

    "Now the attack is on the vanity of smokers - if you are a man you are told you will be impotent, if you are a women you are told you will suffer premature ageing and wrinkles. It is just ludicrous."

    The BMA welcomed the move. Dr Vivienne Nathanson, head of science, ethics and health policy for the association, said: "Most people know that smoking causes heart disease and stroke. But they may not realise that it also damages small blood vessels in the penis resulting in impotence."

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    See also:

    19 Nov 99 | Medical notes
    11 Oct 99 | Health
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