Government consults on anti-smoking measures

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - The British government launched a three-month public consultation on Saturday on how to cut the number of people smoking.

An ashtray with cigarettes is seen in this file photo. The government launched a three-month public consultation on Saturday on how to cut the number of people smoking in Britain. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

Removing branding and logos from cigarette packets, making retailers sell cigarettes from under the counter and banning the advertising of smoking paraphernalia, such as cigarette papers, are some of the measures proposed by the Department of Health.

Abolishing packs of 10, to cut the number of young people taking up the habit, and restricting youngsters’ access to cigarette vending machines are also being considered.

The take-up of smoking among young people is lower than a decade ago, but more than 200,000 people aged under 16 start smoking every year.

They are three times more likely to die of cancer than people who start smoking in their mid-20s.

“Protecting children from smoking is a government priority and taking away temptation is one way to do this,” Public Health Minister Dawn Primarolo said on Saturday.

“If banning brightly colored packets, removing cigarettes from display and removing the cheap option of a pack of 10 helps save lives, then that is what we should do -- but we want to hear everyone’s views first.”

Smoking-related disease kills 87,000 people a year, and despite a drop in the number of smokers by 1.9 million in the past decade, smoking remains the biggest killer in England.

Smoke-related illness costs the NHS between 1.4 and 1.7 billion pounds a year.

Last July, England followed the rest of the UK in banning smoking in enclosed public places. Bans were introduced in Scotland in 2006, and in Wales and Northern Ireland in 2007.

Since the ban was imposed in England the number of people using NHS stop-smoking services has increased by 28 percent, while the number of smokers in Britain has declined by 2 percent to 22 percent of the population.

Reporting by Jennifer Hill; editing by Stephen Addison and Paul Casciato