After intensive lobbying from the tobacco industry, cigarette manufacturers are to be allowed to put their side of the argument in prominent messages on cigarette packets. In an attempt at even-handedness, the government will permit some health warnings to be replaced with an alternative message saying ‘Smoking is really cool’ or ‘Smoking makes you look big and clever and is really great’.
The decision comes following a ruling that the previous messages were too one sided, and unfairly restricted the freedom of speech of the tobacco companies. Kenneth Clarke, an advisor to British American Tobacco, said: ‘People know that smoking is bad for them, they’ve been told that a million times over. What they may have forgotten is that holding a cigarette makes you look hard and glamorous and a little bit of a rebel. We need to remind people that ‘Smoking Can Seriously Damage Your Reputation As A Goody-Goody’.
Even more controversially, the tobacco companies are to be allowed to put warnings on health foods suggesting that consumers might prefer to have a big fat cigar rather than another boring oatcake with houmous. Packets of wholegrain breadsticks are to feature prominent messages saying ‘Warning; eating health foods will not give you a rush of nicotine and a relaxed feeling of well-being.’ Brancakes will say ‘Warning, this food is dull and tasteless and a lot less gratifying than a good smoke.’
But it is the positive cigarette messages that have got health campaigners up in arms. Dr Brian Ellery of the BMA said ‘we’ve spent years trying to get people to give up smoking, but how can we compete against cigarette packets with the message ‘Smoking is very relaxing’ and ‘Smoking is the only excuse you have for going outside the office and talking to that gorgeous new receptionist.’