Bill to put health warnings on cigarette sticks being put to Parliament on Monday 14th June

Sunday 13th June 2021

Bill to put health warnings on cigarette sticks being put to Parliament on Monday 14th June

Lord Young of Cookham first proposed health warnings on cigarettes when he was a health minister in Margaret Thatcher’s Government, but he was thwarted by the tobacco manufacturers. Four decades later the former MP, now a Life Peer and vice chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health,[1] is introducing a private member’s bill into the House of Lords to make his proposal law [2].

Lord Young said:

“As Health Minister I suggested health warnings on cigarettes might help more people quit smoking. The tobacco companies told me this would make cigarettes more dangerous, as the ink was carcinogenic. Plainly this is nonsense given that tobacco already contains 70 cancer causing chemicals.

“In the intervening years the evidence that warnings on cigarettes would help smokers quit has grown. This is a simple measure with minimal cost that could help deliver the Government’s Smokefree 2030 ambition.”

Lord Young’s Bill is being introduced into the House of Lords tomorrow [Monday 14th June]. If passed into the law the Bill would require both cigarettes and cigarette papers to display health warnings such as ‘Smoking Kills’ or ‘Smoking Causes Cancer’.

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), said:

“Cigarettes not cigarette packs kill smokers, so obviously the sticks themselves are where health warnings are most needed. As a health minister, George Young proposed just that, but Big Tobacco thwarted him.

Lord Young’s private member’s bill could finally put the warnings on cigarettes he first proposed four decades ago. His Bill is supported by parliamentarians, leading health organisations and the public. All that is needed is the support of Government and Britain can become the first nation in the world to put ‘Smoking Kills’ where it belongs, on the cigarette itself.”

Public support for this measure is high. In a poll conducted by YouGov for Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) 70% of those surveyed supported the proposal for health warnings to be printed on cigarette sticks, two thirds of them strongly. Only 8% opposed the proposal with the remainder answering that they neither supported nor opposed the proposal or didn’t know (22%) [3].

Dr Crawford Moodie, responsible for a growing body of evidence indicating that health warnings on cigarettes would be effective, [4] said:

“Our research shows that putting warnings on cigarettes is a viable policy option and one which for the first time would extend health messaging to the consumption experience. Warnings on cigarettes reinforce the message about how harmful smoking is every time a smoker takes a cigarette out of the pack to light up, just when they need to be reminded.”

Much of the research into the potential benefits of health warnings on cigarettes has been funded by Cancer Research UK. Cancer Research UK Director of Policy Emlyn Samuel said:

“Too many young people are still taking up smoking. Government anti-smoking campaigns and tax rises on cigarettes and hand-rolled tobacco remain the most effective ways to stop young people starting smoking. However, we need to continue to explore innovative methods to deter them from using cigarettes to ensure that youth smoking rates continue to fall. Cancer Research UK funded research shows that tactics like making the cigarettes themselves unappealing could be an effective way of doing this.”

Health warnings on cigarettes (also called dissuasive cigarettes) is a measure under active consideration around the world. This was one of the recommendations in the recent All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health report [5] for measures which should be included in the forthcoming Tobacco Control Plan [6], as part of a comprehensive strategy to deliver the Government’s Smokefree 2030 ambition.

In addition to dissuading smokers from lighting up, the warnings would also serve to protect children who are not necessarily exposed to the unappealing packaging and on-pack warnings when they experiment, as most children are given their first cigarette.


Notes to editors
For more information contact or out of hours Deborah Arnott on 07976 935 987 or Hazel Cheeseman on 077 5435 8593.

[1] More information about the APPG on Smoking & Health available at: