Support for plain cigarette packaging

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A CAMPAIGN for plain cigarette packaging has won the support of a health board.

Members of Hartlepool’s shadow health and well-being board have lent their support to the Plain Packs Protect campaign which aims to stop children lighting up.

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It calls for plain standardised packs with images of the health problems caused by smoking on the front.

The backing from the board, which brings together the NHS, local authority and health watchdogs, comes after support from Hartlepool Borough Council’s scrutiny forum.

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

The aim is to prevent children wanting to start smoking and the Government will soon launch a consultation.

Members also heard that from April, cigarette packets will no longer be on display in shops and supermarkets but behind screens instead.

Carole Johnson, head of health improvement for NHS Hartlepool, said: “We need a multi-faceted approach and the government is to consult with us on plain packaging.

“This is about protecting the next generation.”

She warned board members it would be a “dirty fight” against the tobacco industry and said: “We are going to need all the help we can get.”

Labour councillor Jonathan Brash, who was speaking before the six Labour councillors were axed from Mayor Stuart Drummond’s cabinet, said he agreed with the campaign.

Labour councillor Pamela Hargreaves said images of the health problems caused by smoking should be targeted at younger people and said one of the biggest deterrents should be the price.

Coun Hargreaves added: “If the price of a packet, £7.50 or whatever it is, is put on the front that would certainly make me think twice.”

Independent councillors Hilary Thompson said if people are addicted to something they would not necessarily think about the cost. But Coun Brash said cost did play a part in people quitting.

Labour councillor Chris Simmons said he didn’t want to see any image or colours used on cigarette packages.

He said they should be plain with just the manufacturers name on and a health warning.

As previously reported, one-in-four people in Hartlepool still smoke, with £3.7m spent every year treating them.

Shock figures also show 254 pregnant women were still smoking at the time they gave birth last year.

Figures from anti-smoking lobby FRESH reveal that 18,000 people regularly smoke in Hartlepool, around 164 people die each year in the town from smoking and the cost of hospital admissions to treat smoking-related problems is £1.9m a year.

But despite the grim statistics, Hartlepool still has one of the best records in the country for getting smokers to quit.

Labour councillor Ged Hall said: “It is good to see there are a lot quitters in Hartlepool, but we still have a long way to go.”