The UK government has launched a public consultation on adding inserts to cigarette packs to encourage smokers to quit.
The survey can be accessed online and will be open until 10th October to private citizens, individuals in their professional capacity and organisations.
Commenting on the initiative, Deborah Arnott, CEO of UK public health charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) said: “Smoking is very addictive, and it takes smokers on average 30 attempts before they succeed in stopping, so encouraging them to keep on trying is vital.”
She explained how pack inserts do this by “backing up the grim messages about death and disease” on the outside of the packaging with the “best advice about how to quit” on the inside.
Highlighting health and financial benefits
Based on the government’s plan, inserts would be placed inside packages of cigarettes and roll-your-own tobacco, although the consultation asks respondents whether they think the rule should also apply to all tobacco products, including smokeless ones.
The leaflets would feature messages encouraging users to quit by highlighting the health and financial benefits they could achieve by giving up smoking, including “improvements to breathing within a matter of days and a 50% reduction in the risk of heart attack within a year,” according to the Department of Health and Social Care.
Inserts would also refer users to “advice and support” to help them stop, the government said, and would show them “how much money they stand to save by giving up, with the average person likely to save over £2,000 per year if they quit”.
Among other queries, the consultation asks respondents if they believe such inserts – already in use in other countries, such as Canada and Israel – would encourage smokers to quit, discourage young people from taking up smoking and benefit secondhand smokers by reducing the number of tobacco users.
Respondents are also asked to provide any information and evidence they may have on the effectiveness of package inserts or online quitting advice and support.
A separate set of questions focus on the content, design and positioning of inserts, the kind of tobacco products they should cover and the time – between three months and a year – suppliers should be given to comply with the new regulation if it is enforced.
The Department of Health and Social Care reports that although the smoking rate is at an all-time low of 13%, it is still the single leading preventable cause of disease and death in the country, accounting for nearly 4% – or 450,000 – of hospital admissions and £21bn in taxpayers’ money in expenditure every year.
This figure includes £2bn in costs to the National Health Service (NHS).
Part of the 2030 smoke-free target
The government said it believed introducing inserts in all tobacco products could lead up to 30,000 smokers to quit, which would result in health benefits worth £1.6bn.
“Smoking places a huge burden on the NHS, economy and individuals. It directly causes a whole host of health problems, including cancers and cardiovascular disease, and costs the economy billions every year in lost productivity,” said Social Care secretary Steve Barclay.
“By taking action to reduce smoking rates and pursuing our ambition to be smokefree by 2030, we will reduce the pressure on the NHS and help people to live healthier lives.”
The consultation, launched on 14th August, is part of a strategy that prompted a series of public measures aiming to reduce smoking rates to 5% or less by 2030, including the government-funded “swap-to-stop” scheme, which offers smokers a free vaping starter kit as a tool to help them quit.
On the day of the survey launch, the government also published the first report on its major conditions strategy. It covers the six groups of conditions that account for 60% of all illness and early deaths in the country, namely cancers, cardiovascular disease – including stroke and diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders, mental ill health, dementia and chronic respiratory disease.
The report recommends a strategy addressing risk and lifestyle factors that lead to these conditions. It says smoking is a leading factor in all of them and the biggest cause of cancer – accounting for one in five cancer deaths in the country.
“Smoking remains the biggest single cause of preventable illness and death, driving health disparities and directly contributing to developing all major groups of conditions,” the interim report reads.
– Tiziana Cauli TobaccoIntelligence staff