Winning battle against smoking `myth'

By RICHARD HOWITTLabourTHIS month, groundbreaking new EU anti-smoking laws - banning the use of "light" "mild" and "low tar" and putting giant health warnings, covering over 1/3 of the pack, on cigarette packets – have come into force across the UK.

By RICHARD HOWITT

Labour

THIS month, groundbreaking new EU anti-smoking laws - banning the use of "light" "mild" and "low tar" and putting giant health warnings, covering over 1/3 of the pack, on cigarette packets – have come into force across the UK.

The new rules also pave the way for the use of shocking picture images.


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I have joined fellow Labour Euro MPs battling for over three years in the European Parliament to push the tough new regime through.

The aim is to shatter the myth that one type of cigarette is healthier than another.

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Light, mild and low tar labels are particularly harmful because they have been used to target women, like low fat yoghurt or diet cola. Europe's consumers have been deceived into thinking that "light," "mild" and "low tar" cigarettes are healthier, they have been misled by the marketing gurus. This ban is long overdue; the research shows that low tar cigarettes inflict the same damage as conventional cigarettes. Smokers inhale these cigarettes more deeply to get the same hit and the damage done can be more lethal.

These new European rules which I have supported will change the packaging of cigarettes sold in the UK to put the health risks centre stage.

Giant health warnings will dominate cigarette packs, signalling them out for special attention as the only product, which kills when used as intended.

With these new EU rules, smokers will be given a stark reminder of the damage they are doing, every time they pick up a cigarette packet. After decades of deception and misinformation from the tobacco industry, the message about the true costs of smoking will finally start to hit home.

In the European Parliament we have ensured that shock pictures for use as warnings are currently being drawn up. I believe that graphic pictures of rotten teeth and blackened lungs can be used effectively to bring home the true cost of smoking. I am confident that we will have picture warnings on cigarette packs in the UK in the very near future.

In the face of massive opposition from the tobacco industry, the European Parliament won the battle to get this legislation on the books. As your Euro MP, I am sure, through my visits to schools, hospitals and voluntary organisations, that local people will fully welcome European action in this area. With these EU laws, the days of glamorous cigarette packs with obscure health warnings are over. Smoking will never be the same again.

RICHARD Howitt MEP is Labour Euro MP for the East of England region. Contact: richard.howitt@geo2.poptel.org.uk

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