Press release: Public ignorant about poisons found in cigarette smoke

Cancer Research UK

THE British public is unaware of the multitude of poisonous chemicals found in cigarette smoke - according to a survey carried out for Cancer Research UK.

Smoke from cigarettes contains some 4,000 chemicals, 69 of which are known to cause cancer. But three quarters of people surveyed* were not able to name a single chemical, other than nicotine and tar which are listed on cigarette packs. Of those who said they know a lot about the dangerous chemicals in cigarette smoke, 68 per cent could not name any. Even when given a list of poisons to choose from, more than two in five people were not able to identify a single one.

The results of the survey were published today (Monday) at the launch of the charity’s hard-hitting new anti-tobacco campaign, 'Smoke is Poison'. By raising awareness of the poisons in cigarette smoke - which include, arsenic, benzene and formaldehyde - the campaign aims to save some of the tens of thousands of lives lost to smoking related diseases every year in the UK.

The main element of the campaign is a groundbreaking series of TV advertisements, filmed by award winning reporter and acclaimed documentary maker, Donal MacIntyre. Using the cover story of making a health and safety documentary, MacIntyre interviews professionals - including scientists, undertakers, and a crime museum curator - who use dangerous chemicals on a daily basis about the stringent precautions they take to protect their health.

The powerful advertisements end with the interviewees' genuine reaction on learning that the harmful chemicals are also present in cigarette smoke.

Other elements of the campaign include radio, internet and newspaper advertising, outdoor posters, washroom panels and beer mats.

Donal MacIntyre said: "The 'Smoke is Poison' campaign breaks the advertising mould. Instead of using glamour and celebrity in a high-budget attempt to try to sell the viewer on the dangers of cigarette smoke, we've just allowed everyday people to tell it how it is.

"This series of 'docu-ads' with their straightforward, honest - almost anti-advertising approach - are a first for the UK. Filming them has certainly made me and the rest of the crew think twice about the dangers of cigarette smoke. We hope they save lives."

Russel Hopps, a Manchester undertaker who features in one of the TV advertisements, said: "I was really shocked when I heard that formaldehyde is in cigarettes. In our business we wear goggles, a mask, thick gloves and an apron to protect our health while we are embalming. Taking part in the filming made me wonder just what other nasty chemicals are in cigarette smoke. I've been thinking about trying to quit for ages but this has made me decide to give up for good."

The campaign has been funded by the Department of Health. Public health minister, Caroline Flint, said: "We know that smoking kills. The Department of Health supports Cancer Research UK's Smoke is Poison campaign. We believe the more people know about the chemicals found in cigarette smoke and how harmful they can be, the more of an incentive it is for people to quit, and the less likely it is for people to start smoking in the first place.

"Smoking related illnesses cost the health system £1.7 billion each year. Awareness campaigns like this, will help save people's lives."

Cancer Research UK's chief executive, Professor Alex Markham, said: "The effects of smoking are devastating. Every day in the UK 300 people are killed by a smoking related disease.

"Our 'Smoke is Poison' campaign is designed to make people aware of what they're taking into their lungs and bodies when they puff on a cigarette, or when they are around others who smoke.

"We hope it will encourage many more smokers to quit and make non-smokers feel justified in asking other people not to smoke around them. Quitting is the best present you can give yourself and your loved ones this Christmas and New Year."

ENDS

For media enquiries please contact Sophy Fitzpatrick in the press office on 020 7 061 8318 or, out-of-hours, the duty press officer on 07050 264 059.

Broadcast quality copies of the advertisements are available on request. Members of the public who featured in the advertisements are available for interview.

The chemicals featured in the 'Smoke is Poison' campaign include:

  • Arsenic
  • Cadmium
  • Benzene
  • Formaldehyde
  • Polonium-210

For more information about the poisons in cigarette smoke visit: www.smokeispoison.com

SMOKE IS POISON CASE STUDIES

Real employees were filmed in their places of work in order to capture genuine reactions to the revelation that cigarette smoke contains poisonous chemicals.

Russel Hopps - undertaker

Russel is a 64 year old undertaker from Manchester.

On a daily basis he is exposed to formaldehyde, which is used in the embalming process. To protect his health when working with this dangerous chemical he wears goggles, a mask, thick gloves and an apron.

A lifelong smoker - he started at the age of 12 - Russel was shocked at the revelation that formaldehyde is in cigarette smoke.

Aware that cigarettes are bad for your health, Russel had been thinking about trying to give up for some time.

Taking part in the filming of Cancer Research UK's new hard-hitting anti-tobacco advertisements has given him the motivation he needed.

Russel gave up smoking two weeks ago.

He said: "I was really shocked when I heard that formaldehyde is in cigarettes. In our business we wear goggles, a mask, thick gloves and an apron to protect our health while we are embalming.

"Taking part in the filming made me wonder just what other nasty chemicals are in cigarette smoke.

"I've been thinking about trying to quit for ages, but this has made me decide to give up for good."

He is using nicotine patches to help him stop smoking. Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) is a safe way to quit. Using NRT can double your chances of successfully giving up for good.

"I've been smoking about 20 a day for most of my life. But I haven't had a cigarette for about two weeks now. It's not easy, but using the patches really helps. I'm determined to do it. I know it will be worth it in the end."

Alan McCormick - curator of the Scotland Yard Crime Museum

As curator of the Scotland Yard Crime Museum, Alan has seen the effects of arsenic on the body where it has been used to poison people.

He has survived cancer twice - bowel cancer and lung cancer - and was shocked to hear that arsenic is in cigarettes.

Alan said: "I've seen the effects of arsenic on the body where it has been used as a murder weapon and I was shocked to hear that it's in cigarettes as well.

"Having had lung cancer I hate people smoking anywhere near me. Taking part in the making of these ads makes me feel more strongly that smokers shouldn’t subject others to their deadly smoke."

The survey

*The BMRB survey was carried out in November 2006. Over 1,600 people across the UK were interviewed, including more than 500 smokers.

Just over sixty per cent (61%) of smokers were unable to name any of the chemicals in cigarette smoke other than tar and nicotine, which are listed on the pack. And only one per cent could list more than three.

Nearly 60 per cent (57%) of smokers who said they know a lot about the dangerous chemicals in cigarette smoke where unable to name a single one, other than tar and nicotine.

And even when given a list to choose from, nearly 30 per cent of smokers surveyed still couldn’t name any of the chemicals that cigarette smoke contains.

Quitting smoking

For advice on quitting, what help is available and how to control withdrawal symptoms, visit: http://info.cancerresearchuk.org/healthyliving/smokingandtobacco/givingup/

Cancer Research UK's Reduce the Risk campaign

Half of all cancers could be prevented by changes to lifestyle. Cancer Research UK's Reduce the Risk campaign highlights five important ways you can lower your cancer risk:

  • Stop smoking
  • Stay in shape
  • Eat and drink healthily
  • Be SunSmart
  • Look after number one

For more information visit: www.reducetherisk.org.uk

About Cancer Research UK

  • Together with its partners and supporters, Cancer Research UK's vision is to beat cancer.
  • Cancer Research UK carries out world-class research to improve understanding of the disease and find out how to prevent, diagnose and treat different kinds of cancer.
  • Cancer Research UK ensures that its findings are used to improve the lives of all cancer patients.
  • Cancer Research UK helps people to understand cancer, the progress that is being made and the choices each person can make.
  • Cancer Research UK works in partnership with others to achieve the greatest impact in the global fight against cancer.

For further information about Cancer Research UK's work or to find out how to support the charity, please call 020 7009 8820 or visit www.cancerresearchuk.org.

Visit our CancerHelp website for clear, easy to understand information about cancer and cancer treatments www.cancerhelp.org.uk

Tags