30/09/2003

Hard-hitting tobacco warnings come into force

Hard-hitting warnings about the dangers of smoking become compulsory on every cigarette packet today.

The stark messages are designed to hammer home the truth about Britain's biggest cause of premature deaths. They include: smokers die younger; smoking when pregnant harms your baby; and smoking can cause a slow and painful death.

They also include the telephone number for the NHS smoking helpline - 0800 169 0 169.

The messages, which are in black and white and cover at least 30% of the front of the packet, are already displayed on many cartons but are compulsory from today.

Public Health Minister Melanie Johnson said: "The new warnings are an essential, visual wake-up call to everyone about the dangers of smoking.

"Smokers need to be well informed about the real consequences of their habit. People can no longer escape the reality that they are twice as likely to die young as a result of smoking related diseases."

Misleading descriptions on cigarette packets, like 'low-tar', 'light', 'mild' or 'ultra-light', are also banned from today.

Shops or vending machines that continue to sell cigarette packets with the old health warnings or with the misleading descriptions could be prosecuted by trading standards officers.

The NHS Smoking Helpline provides expert, free, and friendly advice to smokers and their families. It is open between 7am and 11pm every day, with unlimited access to trained advisors giving one-to-one advice and support from 10 am.

(gmcg)

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