A MUM has backed a campaign for a tougher stance on cigarettes after shock figures showed 19 North-East youngsters a day are taking up smoking.
Former smoker and mum-of-three Lisa Taylor, 36, spoke out to demand the introduction of plain packs to prevent young people from being attracted to colourful tobacco brands.
She has backed a campaign by anti-smoking group Fresh which claimed 430 UK children start smoking every day.
Lisa said: “I first started smoking when I was 11 years old as a way to fit in with groups of friends.
“At the time, I remember that there were two main brands that everyone had to be seen to be smoking – one of the brands came in a shiny gold packet and looked more expensive than the other.
“To me and my friends, the gold packet suggested that it was a stronger cigarette in taste, so we didn’t smoke that one and went for the one that looked like it was milder.
“Now, every day when I take my kids to school I see so many young people smoking brands with much more attractive packaging.
“Someone showed me this really cool-looking slide pack which I’d never seen before – I couldn’t believe my eyes because the pack was being played with like a toy.
“I’ve got a ten-year-old daughter who is starting to become more conscious about how she looks, so I would hate for her to be influenced to start smoking because of colourful packaging.”
In fact, it was Lisa’s daughter Ebony, 10, who pleaded with her to quit.
It is now six months since the national Government consultation on plain, standardised packaging for tobacco closed, with no decision yet made by Ministers.
Fresh director Ailsa Rutter said: “The evidence is clear that heavily branded, brightly coloured packs are attractive to children. Most smokers start as children.
“We are appalled at the way multinational tobacco companies are increasingly using glossy brands and pack designs to make smoking more attractive to young people. There are packs with designs that look like Lego, perfume and lip gloss here on shop shelves in the North East.
“It’s been six months since the consultation closed and the clock is ticking. Every day hundreds more children take up smoking - children who need protecting from tobacco industry marketing.
“We are urging MPs in our region to tell the Government to commit now to legislation to put all tobacco products in standard packs.”
Lisa, from Tweddle Crescent, in Blackhall, added: “It’s shocking to think that even more children have been attracted to start smoking over the last six months since the national consultation on plain, standardised packaging took place.
“I’ve seen the terrible affects of what smoking can do to people’s health, so I’d really encourage the government to act now and help protect our kids in the future from such a deadly product.”