Leading North East MEP calls for EU-sponsored action to prevent cancer in 2012
"If 2011 was a year of bad news coming out of the EU, I want to make sure 2012 is the year for good news," said Stephen Hughes MEP, Labour's North East MEP.
This year, Mr Hughes will be campaigning for anti-cancer measures including the EU Tobacco Products Directive (Stephen Hughes is fighting to get pictorial health warnings on cigarette packets and plain packaging without branding , a s well as restrictions on the use of additives and flavourings in cigarettes) and revising the Clinical Trials Directive, which could help make it less bureaucratic to undertake clinical trials in the UK and across Europe on those cancers which cannot be avoided.
Over 40% of diagnosed cancers in the UK are preventable, as a recent Cancer Research UK report found. Nutrition, alcohol consumption and sun exposure are all factors, but by far the biggest killer is tobacco. Half of all smokers will be killed by cigarettes, and tobacco is the second biggest cause of death worldwide. In the coming year, the European Parliament will revise the EU Tobacco Products Directive and tough new measures such as pictorial health warnings and plain packaging without branding will be debated.
Mr Hughes said: "Sadly, nearly everyone has been touched by cancer in one way or another, whether they've had cancer themselves or lost a loved one to the disease. The European Parliament can help save lives and I will be doing a lot of work in 2012 to fight this devastating disease.
"If we are serious about tackling the diseases caused by tobacco then we have to make smoking less appealing to young people. At the moment the tobacco industry is allowed to use the cigarette pack as their advertising board; instead we should be using it to inform people of the damage smoking can do."
Restrictions on the use of additives and flavourings, especially fruit and candy flavours, will also be discussed. According to Stephen Hughes "these kinds of additives and flavourings clearly make tobacco more palatable for children, and must not be allowed."
Jean King, Cancer Research UK's director of tobacco control, said: "Tremendous progress has been made in improving the chance of surviving cancer during the last 40 years, but more needs to be done to make sure people are made aware of the risks of getting the disease in the first place. Tobacco remains by far the most important cancer related lifestyle factor causing 23 per cent of cancers in men and nearly one in five cancers in women in the UK. Stopping young people from starting smoking by protecting them from tobacco marketing is vital in helping to reduce these figures. Standardising tobacco packaging and removing the colourful, eye-catching branding is an important first step in achieving this. We also look forward to the UK Government consulting on this issue in 2012."
Australia has just introduced standardised packets for cigarettes, andCanada has tough restrictions on additives.
Mr Hughes also wants more action against those cancers which cannot be avoided. Up to 50% of cancers are 'rare', but because so few patients suffer from each type it is hard to find enough in the UK to carry out trials of new drugs and treatments. Next year the European Parliament will also be revising the Clinical Trials Directive, which could help make it less bureaucratic to undertake clinical trials in the UK and across Europe. This would reduce the time it takes to gain approval to undertake a clinical trial and the administrative costs involved, while maintaining patient safety.
Stephen Hughes said: "It is crucial we work with our European partners on cross-border research into new ways of treating these cancers. I want to make sure the Clinical Trials Directive makes it easier to work together with other EU countries, and encourages and supports life-saving research."