Health warnings on individual cigarettes would make England a world leader in tackling the tobacco epidemic, ministers have been told.
Manufacturers would be required to use eight different warnings in rotation on single cigarette sticks and rolling paper under the terms of the Cigarette Stick Health Warnings Bill.
These would include “smoking kills” and other messages to highlight the health effects, the financial cost and contact details for advice on quitting.
Conservative peer Lord Young of Cookham has spent 43 years lobbying for his proposal to become law after first raising it while a health minister in Margaret Thatcher’s government in 1979.
The move would make England a world leader in tackling the tobacco epidemic Chris Radburn
He told the Lords: “This is likely to be particularly effective in dissuading children, who tend to start smoking with individual cigarettes rather than packs.
“While England is undoubtedly amongst the most successful nations in the world at tackling the tobacco epidemic, we’ve tended to follow rather than lead when it comes to the implementation of bold policies to address this deadly addiction.
“This Bill gives us the opportunity to be the first, helping to cement our place as a world leader in tobacco control.
“We know that only a third of the 280 children who take up smoking every day in England will successfully quit and another third will go on to die from smoking-related diseases.”
Lord Young added: “I first proposed cigarette warnings as a health minister in Margaret Thatcher’s government in the late 1970s.
“By 2024 I’ll have been in Parliament for 50 years, I hope I won’t have to wait that long before this policy is introduced.”
For Labour, former public health minister Baroness Merron said: “This is a considered and sensible Bill.”
The Government has not offered its support to the Bill, which cleared the House of Lords on Friday after receiving a third reading.
Health minister Lord Kamall said: “The Government is committed to reducing the harms caused by tobacco and is proud of the long-term progress successive governments of different parties have made in reducing smoking rates – currently at 13.5%, the lowest on record.
“But we cannot be complacent. With nearly six million smokers in England, smoking is still one of the largest drivers of health disparities and causes a disproportionate burden on our most disadvantaged families and communities.”
He highlighted the Government’s ambition for England to be smoke-free by 2030, and said he had been assured its white paper and tobacco control plan will be “published later this year”.
The Bill is unlikely to progress in its current form due to a lack of parliamentary time to consider it further in the House of Commons.