Council leaders raise concerns over plain cig packaging decision

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COUNCIL leaders have raised fears after plans for plain cigarette packaging were put on ice by the Government.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt recently announced that a decision on whether to go ahead with plain packs in England would be postponed until ministers had a chance to assess the impact of a similar scheme introduced last year in Australia.

But Hartlepool Borough Council leader Christopher Akers-Belcher, who also chairs the town’s health and wellbeing board, said he was concerned about the decision.

Last year the board backed the Plain Packs Protect campaign, which aims to stop children lighting up, and called for plain standardised packs with images of health problems caused by smoking on the front. In April the council took on responsibility for public health.

Coun Akers-Belcher said: “We have always said smoking is the single most preventative cause of cancer, yet we are getting no help nationally to help in narrowing the gap in health inequalities.”

Lucy Hovvels, Durham County Council cabinet member for safer and healthier communities, who represents Thornley and Trimdon, said: “Every day we delay, more children start to smoke.”

She called for a Parliamentary debate and free vote on the issue.

Health chiefs have said there is evidence plain packs are less attractive to young people, that they strengthen the impact of health warnings and make packs less “misleading”.