Intended for healthcare professionals


MPs want a tobacco regulatory authority

BMJ 2000; 320 doi: (Published 24 June 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;320:1691
  1. Mark Silvert
  1. BMJ

    Tougher controls over the tobacco industry, including the creation of a tobacco regulatory authority, were recommended by members of the House of Commons health committee in its second report on the health risks of smoking last week.

    “Tobacco industries have run rings around governments for years,” said David Hinchliffe, the committee's chairman. He said that with six million people dead in the United Kingdom as a result of smoking since 1950, it was time to get to grips with the problem.

    The committee believes that a tobacco regulatory authority with access to high quality scientific advice would be the appropriate body to advise the government on the evidence on the health risks of smoking and passive smoking.

    The report calls for cigarette packets to carry stronger health warnings, including messages that smoking could cause impotence. It wants an end to the current voluntary agreements with the industry.

    The MPs also urged the Department of Trade and Industry to investigate claims linking a tobacco firm to large scale cigarette smuggling. The committee said that criminal proceedings should be considered against British American Tobacco (BAT) if the allegations against them proved to be true.

    The committee also urged the government to protect non-smokers from the effects of other people's smoke. “In our view, voluntary agreements on passive smoking cannot yet be said to be really delivering smoke-free environments to all those who want them.” The report emphasised that any real improvement with regard to smoke-free zones probably owed more to market forces than to any government action.

    The committee recommended that nicotine should be regarded as similar to drugs such as heroin and cocaine when antismoking strategies were produced. The report encouraged the use of “proof of age” cards to stop tobacco products being sold to children.

    Other recommendations included banning shopkeepers found guilty of selling cigarettes to under 16s from selling any tobacco products; making nicotine replacement therapies available on prescription for a total of six weeks; and making tobacco companies list the additives in tobacco on packets.

    Amanda Sandford of the pressure group Action on Smoking and Health said, “We are delighted with the report. It is comprehensive and quite rightly severely critical of the tobacco industry. We hope this will now be a springboard for real control over the tobacco industry.”

    The Tobacco Industry and the Health Risks of Smoking (second report) is available from the Stationery Office, price £11.50, or can be accessed at

    Embedded Image

    MPs want cigarette packets to carry warnings that smoking can cause impotence—as they do in Canada (above)

    (Credit: CANADA HEALTH)

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