Calls for plain cig packaging

CAMPAIGN group Fresh is urging the Government to back proposals to protect children in the North-East from tobacco marketing in the Queen’s Speech next week.

Last year more than 13,500 people and 129 organisations in the region, including Hartlepool Borough Council, came out in support of standardised packs during the Department of Health consultation.

Despite reductions in smoking, the North-East still has higher than average rates of young people smoking and taking up the habit, with 9,000 children starting to smoke each year.

The average age that the regions’ smokers begin smoking cigarettes is just 15, with some starting as young as nine years old.

Standardised packs were introduced in Australia in December.

Evidence shows that they make tobacco packs less attractive and end the deception that some cigarettes are less harmful than others.

Ailsa Rutter, director of Fresh, said: “We hope very much the Government will not cave in to tobacco industry lobbying and will instead put our children first.

“Smoking is still our biggest killer and starting as a child raises the risks of diseases like lung cancer in later life.

“Doctors and MPs from our region have spoken out in horror at how young women are being targeted with glamorous ‘slim’ packs, at a time when we are predicted to see a threefold increase in the number of women suffering from lung cancer in the UK by 2040.

“Young people who have seen standardised packs have said they would be the brand they would be least likely to want to try.

“Last year there was massive public support to end tobacco promotion.

“All our councils are behind it and thousands of people – including many smokers themselves – expressed their support to do more to protect young people from starting to smoke.”

The latest opinion poll shows standardised packaging is supported by 63 per cent of adults, with just three per cent strongly opposing.