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Monday, 26 June, 2000, 09:41 GMT 10:41 UK
Will increased health warnings put smokers off?
The European Parliament has decided that tobacco firms should be forced to print health warnings across 40% of each cigarette packet.Disclaimer: The BBC will put up as many of your comments as possible but we cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published. The BBC reserves the right to edit comments that are published.
The plans, voted through on Wednesday, also involve setting a new upper limit for the amount of tar contained in cigarettes, and stopping the use of descriptions such as "mild", "lights" and "low tar".
It has even been suggested that images of damaged lungs and rotten teeth would be put on cigarette packets to deter people from lighting up.
Do you think smokers are more likely to kick the habit if they are constantly reminded about the health risks every time they pick up a packet? Or will such tactics have little impact on nicotine addicts? Tell us what you think.
Every smoker already knows that smoking is bad but they continue to do it anyway. No picture or warning will stop them if they do not wish to kick the habit. Might as well use the money and effort on some other social programmes.
To Jack, UK and others who don't accept that smoking damage has been proved. I work for the UK NHS. Go into one of our cancer clinics and select a hundred lung cancer sufferers. How many of them will be smokers on average? 99 in fact. Get the message?
People will only seriously consider giving up smoking when it is banned in public places.
David Johnson, England
I work in the insurance industry, where in a competitive marketplace the prime factor influencing cost of cover is mortality risk. Smokers should find out how much the premiums on life or critical illness insurance increases when you're a smoker, relative to being a non-smoker. It is very much more expensive, even if you only smoke one cigarette per year. That massive increase in cost is directly related to the smoker's massively increased chance of death. Got the message now?
Instead of the subtle advertising, why not emblazon the cigarette packet with the logo "YOU WILL DIE".
Smoking kills, but I wonder how many die of the smoke pollution by industry?
We pay our taxes, (and also for the non-smoking whingers).
Raise income tax and ban smoking. Shock tactics like that will shut up the non-smoking lobby. Either that or shut down the NHS, make people take out private health insurance and stop the tax on fags!
Will increased health warnings put smokers off?
Not at all. It will merely lower their self-respect even more. They need a carrot not a stick.
However, it may help to keep non-smokers off.
Kate Finnigan (age 23), England
It may help initially for some people, but after a while people will just become desensitised to them. Also, people who buy from abroad because they cannot afford extortionate UK taxes (but can afford a £20 day trip) will not see them.
I quit smoking three weeks ago, after 13 years, and feel great. I still despise preaching politicians and others - if they weren't lecturing about smoking they'd choose some other vice to rail against. As I recover, though, secretly I lean on those nasty hypocrites' statements for justification - one needs all one can get while quitting. But leading up to the quit date you need to concentrate on why you're quitting for yourself, not your spouse, your mother, or some lame politician. Scare tactics will really scare only a few smokers.
Smoking is socially
acceptable. Our forefathers smoked with no adverse effects. I think
its the chemicals
mixed with tobacco which are detrimental to peoples
health and not the tobacco in its natural form. Its should be controlled.
John Schofield, UK
There is little point in putting hideous pictures of rotting teeth on a cigarette packet. Ever since I started smoking (I am 27 and started at 16) my grandmother has relentlessly told me about her friends who smoked who have lost legs, now breathe through their neck etc. Once you are addicted to nicotine I believe the only thing that will make you stop smoking is a true desire within yourself to quit the habit.
My 4 children and I are all heavy smokers, my husband died of lung cancer, but this hasn't stopped them smoking.
Johannes, Netherlands (now UK)
Increasing the tax on cigarettes will probably have the same effect on smokers that increasing petrol taxes has on the motorist. People will still smoke, but hey, there'll be even more money for the government to squander.
£4.25 per packet has brought smoking into a luxury bad habit bracket. I will just have a custom cigarette packet sleeve made with the design of my choice. Bottles of beer don't have pictures of rotten livers or unhappy families!
As a smoker myself, I feel that I just ignore the current warnings on the sides of packets anyway. If the Government were to put these new warnings on, who is to say that anyone will read them?
The only way to discourage smokers will be to impose such a high tax rate on a packet of cigarettes that it's beyond their means to continue with this deadly, silly habit.
Are you serious?
Justin, UK in US
Perhaps it's too late to help the addicted. Images on the silver screen of the tough smoking male and the sophisticated seductive female lured thousands of teenagers to imitate the movie stars.
Lectures do not work. Let's post those grisly images of "damaged lungs and rotten teeth" in the world of the young.
The best way to encourage people not to smoke is to ban it entirely.
Imagine if smoking was portrayed in movies as the habit of good guys, rather than rebels. Kids would then find it unattractive and give up.
I, myself, am a non-smoker but it really gets my goat when all and sundry start taking pot shots at smokers. What about all those drunk drivers killing and maiming thousands of people annually? Shouldn't we be putting pictures of car crash victims on liquor bottles? The hypocrisy of governments worldwide knows no bounds. If they are really so bothered about their health costs going up, why don't they just shut down all cigarette companies? Governments do not want to admit it, but they need their smokers - hence these token half measures - now and forever.
In my country, none of the smokers think it is harmful to smoke for the people around them. I do not care about the health of smokers, it is their own risk, but I care about my health very much. They should only smoke in private and not in public places.
Like a lot of other men my age, I've smoked for forty years or so. I've tried quitting numerous times, but never succeeded - I probably didn't really want to.
Warnings on packaging just make me angrier at the Government that professes to be against tobacco, but is making so much money from it they don't want me to quit any more than I do.
I don't think it is the function of governments to regulate my personal habits, and I shall continue to vote against any politician who attempts to do so.
I am a non-smoker and have never contemplated lighting up.
The only way to try and stop this totally unsociable habit is to add something like this on the packet: "Smoking-related illnesses will not be treated by the NHS". Scare tactics.
Raising taxes does very little to prevent smoking. The unemployed would rather fill their bodies with chemicals than eat. Smoking needs to be banned from ALL public places and this ban should be ruthlessly enforced. People should be given a choice. Give up smoking or become ineligible for free NHS treatment.
I think the Government should make tobacco only available in chemist shops. Addicts, like me, could register with the doctor to collect it on prescription.
Dr Jon B, Sweden
It is a great idea, and it would be useful to carry this information on every cigarette advertisement on TV and radio as well.
Nicotine is a highly addictive drug that is as hard as the devil to give up. Once you have developed the addiction, it will play havoc with your health. I think the strongest argument against "smoking" is that it makes people look ugly and smell like stale tobacco.
Such a tactical move may initially cause some to ponder over such matters.
However, as they are continuously reminded of the hazards of smoking, the effects will wear off. This is especially so if they get to see the same messages and pictures displayed on the cigarette boxes everytime.
Terence A. Haines, USA
Price is the issue. So long as governments see tax on cigarettes as an important source of income, the price will continue to be set at a level that maximises revenue whilst simultaneously saying that it deters smoking.
This attack on smoking is ludicrous. We contribute £3 in tax to the NHS for every £1 we cost them in "possible" smoking related illnesses.
Smoking does not kill, it "may" increase risks - but even that has not been conclusively proved beyond all doubt.
It's about time these anti-smoker zealots got a life and left us alone.
More pointless legislation from Europe. Would it not be better to do something useful like banning smoking in the work place and in public buildings?
Jo Lord, UK
If warnings of cancer, lung disease, thrombosis and pregnancy complications fail to deter people I don't see that a warning about dirty teeth will help much.
Of course they won't give up. They're addicts as much as drug users are and will continue to be a drain on the NHS and a pain in the backside for all of us who enjoy clean air. They will no doubt state that they put more money into the health service in the first place through taxation, but I would like to remind them that what they're doing is voluntary. I just wish I could elect not to breathe in their poison when they light up in my face!
Far from discouraging people to smoke, they should be encouraging it - particularly amongst the young. The only restrictions should be on a ban on smoking in all public places. Why kill the golden goose? This valuable revenue stream for the government, effectively a stupidity tax, helps to keep my tax bill down.
Almost all the smokers I know are perfectly well aware of the health risks. We have all had the "smoking is bad" message drummed into us from an early age. Speaking as a recent ex-smoker, you have to WANT to give up. No amount of adverse imagery is going to make a normal educated person change what they want to do.
Over the last 5 years we have upped the price by over 100% to no avail. Kids think it makes them look grown up/trendy or will help with weight control. Fashion will always outweigh common sense...that brings me back to the mobile phone.
When does this issue start to impinge on personal liberty? Countless numbers have died in the armed forces of this country supporting freedom and democracy. No one ever thought of putting a health warning on the armed forces! That some people should choose to jeopardise their existence by smoking is surely their decision in a free society. Once the case against smoking has been made, leave it to the individual and stop trying to make pariahs out of them! What we really ought to put a warning on is the erosion of our freedoms.
Every smoker knows vaguely what the risks of smoking are but it is human nature to make excuses to yourself. Some people only smoke lights, some limit themselves to 10 a day. If you can rationalise a habit like smoking in the face of overwhelming facts, it is not going to be difficult to ignore or excuse yourself from the written warnings on the packet. You may not be a pregnant woman, you may think it is only people who smoke 20 a day who get cancer. I think it would be a lot harder to ignore graphic pictures of diseased lungs or other examples of problems caused by smoking.
Why not force cigarette manufacturers to use baby-pink paper to wrap the tobacco? It would do quite a bit to ruin the "macho" / image of brands such as Marlboro and children's perception that smoking is "grown-up"
M. Conomos, Australia
Cigarette smoking is a dangerous hazard to your health. If that does not mean anything to you, I can see your nation's health budget skyrocketing annually.
Smokers will not be deterred by larger health warnings on their packets, they will simply ignore them. Using images of rotten teeth or damaged lungs may act as a deterrent for children, but ultimately it is price which governs the amount of cigarettes consumed.
I think this EU proposal will have an effect as more and more people, even those addicted, try to kick the habit.
Even though the existing warnings have been around for a number of years, they are a bit too general and need constant changing to raise public awareness of all the dangers.
I don't think the health aspects are a deterrent - they are all around us already and nobody seems to take any notice. I smoked for 5 years and the only reason I gave up was when I moved out of home and couldn't afford it.
Can there possibly be anyone - adult or child - who buys a pack of cigarettes without knowing all the terrors they are set to unleash on their bodies? I smoked for five years and gave up six months ago - for my own reasons, in my own time. I knew about all the awful things from primary school onwards but it didn't prevent me from starting.
I don't think it will make a big difference to those addicted, but pictures of rotten teeth and black lungs might put off people from starting.
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