If you ask a dentist – or indeed any healthcare professional – about what they see as the biggest cause of health problems in their practice, the odds are that they will say smoking. Cigarettes lead to a number of diseases and other issues, from discoloured teeth and bad breath to cancer, and any step towards preventing smoking is usually celebrated.
This is the case at the moment, as the British Dental Health Foundation (BDHF) has expressed its delight at the government announcement that it will be bringing forward plans to introduce standardised packaging of tobacco in England. Now the ruling will be decided by a vote before this year’s general election.
Standardised tobacco packaging removes a lot of the appeal of smoking by banning any marketing materials on cigarette packs. Instead, only plain one design will be allowed, replicated across all brands. The only thing that will differentiate the different types of cigarette is the name of the company that manufactured them.
This has been brought into effect in Australia, and the reports have been largely positive. It seems that replacing branding material with a health warning – usually accompanied by a graphic image – is a good way of preventing people from smoking.
Dentists should be pleased by this announcement. Smoking tobacco is one of the main causes of mouth cancer, and the number of deaths caused by this disease is rising. There are now over 6,500 cases and 2,000 deaths each year from the disease.
The habit also causes a number of other oral health problems that plague dental practices everywhere, such as tooth staining, dental plaque, bad breath, tooth loss and gum disease.
Dr Nigel Carter, the BDHF’s chief executive, said: “We have often criticised the government on its lack of movement on the issue, but I am delighted that this vote has been brought forward.
“There was a concern that the government would continue to drag its feet over the decision, but after a review of the evidence available it is pleasing to see standardised packaging just over a year away.”