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MPs unaware of smoking and blindness link

Less than 8% of MPs are aware of the link between smoking and macular degeneration, according to a poll performed on behalf of the Macular Society.
Conducted by Dods communications, the charity has said that it is "horrified" about the ignorance among MPs and is lobbying to speed up the introduction of the presence of sight loss warnings on cigarette packs.

Chief executive of the Macular Society, Tony Rucinski, said: "MPs appear to be in the dark about the link between smoking and sight loss. This is terrible when smoking is a major factor in the biggest cause of blindness in the country; age-related macular degeneration.

"A total 600 young people start smoking every day in this country and they too are ignorant of the risks. We need sight loss warnings on cigarette packs now."

Consultant ophthalmologist, Philip Moradi, who designed the poll added: "It is shocking that so few people know that smoking causes sight loss. Many people say they fear blindness more than cancer so making sure people know about the risks to their sight may actually help them to quit. Children in particular need to know how dangerous smoking is for their sight."

Two years ago an EU directive was published on tobacco products which warned about how smoking increases the risk of blindness on tobacco products. However, a lack of agreement on the images which could be used means that the placement will not come into force until 2016.

In the poll of MPs, just 14% of members stated that smoking 'definitely' or 'probably' caused sight loss, compared to 98% when referring to lung cancer, and 90% for heart disease.

However, research confirmed that smokers are four times more likely to develop age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on smoking and health, Paul Burstow MP, said: "The fact that so few people are aware that smoking can lead to sight loss and blindness shows that more needs to be done to educate people.

"We are making progress when it comes to highlighting the link between smoking and heart disease and cancer, but it is clear that the next stage in developing packaging on cigarettes needs to be about the link to blindness.

"At the moment some people are aware of some of the dangers linked to smoking. We need to make sure that everyone is aware of all of the dangers and that sight loss is one of them."

Chairman of the APPG on eye health and visual impairment, Lord Low of Dalston, added: "Over the past decade the APPG for eye health has strongly supported the campaign to get. 'Smoking causes blindness' warnings on cigarette packets and other tobacco products. This was finally agreed by the EU in 2013 and we warmly welcome the efforts of the Macular Society to secure early implementation in the UK.

"Like their constituents, the great majority of MPs are unaware of the strong links between smoking and sight loss and if the Macular Society's survey had included Peers, there can be little doubt that the findings would be the same. The sooner that written and pictorial warnings are introduced the better."

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