THE fight to have cigarette packs made as plain as possible will be stepped up in the North- East this week.
Campaigners from the anti-smoking group Fresh are urging Ministers to commit to plain, standardised packaging of cigarettes and tobacco.
They believe it is an important step in the fight to help stop 9,000 children in the region from starting to smoke each year.
Their call comes in advance of World No Tobacco Day which happens on Friday.
The theme for the day is a call to ban tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship which all leads to people taking up the habit..
Ailsa Rutter, director of Fresh, said: “Cigarette packs are one of the last remaining forms of promotion and advertising.
“Why else do tobacco companies make the packs so appealing, aiming them clearly as fashion accessories at young people?
“We’re urging Ministers now to commit to removing these enticing brands and protect our children.”
Doctors, MPs and council leaders have expressed anger at some of the packs now on shelves, with logos resembling perfume and Lego boxes.
Last year every local authority and 129 organisations in the North-East signed up support for standardised packs.
As part of the campaign, many shops and supermarkets now have tobacco products hidden from view.
Meanwhile, smokers have been reminded that there are plenty of opprtunities to help them quit.
With World No Tobacco Day taking place at the end of the week, now is a good time to consider kicking the habit.
Ailsa added: “I would urge anyone who is thinking about quitting smoking to have a go. It’s easier than you think it will be, it’ll improve your health and will help to you save money.”
Pat Marshall, service manager at Stockton and Hartlepool Stop Smoking Service run by North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, said: “If you’re worried about how to quit, it’s a good idea to be prepared and have a plan in place to deal with potentially tricky situations – for example, if you’re out with friends at a party you may feel tempted, so if you are using a nicotine replacement product, make sure you have it with you.
“And if you are thinking about quitting altogether, it’s not as hard as you might think. Your best chance of success is to visit your local NHS Stop Smoking Service which is staffed by friendly advisors who will work with you to help you through your quit attempt.
“People who use the services are much more likely to successfully quit, and it’s a great way to improve your chances if you’ve tried before but not succeeded. Most smokers have tried to quit before, but the trick is to keep trying and improve your health.”
The Fresh group has earned widespread praise for its work in helping people to stop smoking and raising the awareness fo the health issues involved.
It is the UK’s first dedicated regional programme for tobacco control, set up in 2005 to tackle the high toll of death and disease caused by smoking.
The North East has since had the biggest decline in smoking of any region in England, down from 29 per cent in 2005 to 21 per cent.
In 2009 Fresh was awarded the Chief Medical Officer’s Gold Medal for Public Health in recognition of the work carried out in the region.
To contact the Stop Smoking Service and find out where the help sessions in the Hartlepool area are taking place, call (01642) 383819.