Parents across the North East are being urged to help protect children from starting to smoke by backing a new campaign calling for plain, standardised tobacco packaging.
The Plain Packs Protect campaign is being launched today in the North East by health campaigners FRESH, aimed at turning off the tap of thousands of North East child smokers who are attracted to glitzy brands.
The average age most smokers in the North East start smoking is just 15, but some start at just nine years old. Colourfully eye-catching and increasingly innovative packs of cigarettes can act as ‘silent salesmen’ and there are current brands available in the North East that many people think resemble Lego, boxes shaped and coloured like make up and brands marketed as ‘super slims’ which are particularly attractive to young women.
Plain Packs Protect is supported by FRESH, Action for Smoking and Health (ASH), Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation. Smoking is still the North East’s biggest killer, claiming the lives of 11 people a day.
The Government is due to launch a three month public consultation in Spring 2012 on whether the UK should adopt the plain, standardised packaging of tobacco products to protect children from tobacco promotion and FRESH is encouraging people to show their support by signing up to Plain Packs Protect at www.freshne.com. All signatures will be fed through to the Government’s national consultation.
Australia is the first country to introduce plain drab olive green packaging for tobacco products from December 2012. The plain packs will display only the name of the product brand and graphic health warnings .
Ailsa Rutter, director of FRESH, said: “Smoking is an addiction that starts in childhood and evide nce shows young people are more likely to be attracted to colourful tobacco packaging.
“This is hardly surprising when you see glamorous brands and glitzy packaging on the shelves. The tobaccoindustry is essentially gift wrapping colourful killers, and making them look like make up products, mp3 players. Some are even considered to resemble Lego.
“We want people to support the introduction of plain, standardised packaging for tobacco products as a measure to prevent children and vulnerable young people from taking up smoking, and a lifetime of addiction, through an attraction to these brands.”
Deborah Arnott, chief executive of ASH, said: “We’re pleased the Government is taking its commitment on plain packaging so seriously. The evidence is already very strong and we urge them to follow the consultation, due to be launched in the Spring, with legislation for implementation by the end of this Parliament.”
Richard Ferry, of the North East Trading Standards Association, said: “Tobacco is the only legal product on our shelves that is used exactly as the manufacturers intend – to kill one in two users.
“Attractive brands make cigarettes seem more glamorous to children and young people, and are likely to trigger under-age purchase attempts.”
Plain packaging for tobacco products will work in three key ways: - help reduce the attractiveness to young people , curb misleading health messages, with many smokers wrongly assuming tobacco sold in white or silver packaging is less harmful than others and increase the prominence of health warnings on packs, making them more visible.
North East MPs and doctors spoke out last year to help expose ‘fashion cigarettes’ or more specifically brands and ‘superslim’ cigarettes which are aimed at young women, exploiting beliefs around smoking, fashion and staying slim.
Tobacco products contain 4,000 chemicals, including lead, formaldehyde (embalming fluid), ammonia (toilet cleaner) and arsenic (found in rat poison) – and yet there is no requirement to list any of these on packaging.
THE PUBLIC SUPPORT FOR PLAIN PACKAGING
Surveys by Action on Smoking and Health show:
• Almost two thirds of people (64 per cent) would support plain packaging if there is evidence that plain packs are less likely to give the false impression that one type of cigarette is safer than another
• Three quarters (75 per cent) would support if there is evidence that plain packs make health warnings more effective
• Four fifths (80 per cent) would support if there is evidence that plain packs are less attractive to children and young people than branded packs.
To support Plain Packs Protect and find out more, sign up at www.freshne.com
For more information about Plain Packaging, click on the link to see the ASH briefing http://ash.org.uk/files/documents/ASH_699.pdf
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