Updated: Saturday, 20th October 2018 @ 4:55pm

Manchester Council vow to tackle smoking as government accused of ‘caving in’ over plain packaging

Manchester Council vow to tackle smoking as government accused of ‘caving in’ over plain packaging

By Neil Robertson 

The postponement of compulsory plain cigarette packaging has been branded ‘unacceptable' by a leading cancer charity – as Manchester City Council sign a declaration vowing to do everything in its power to tackle smoking.

Cancer Research UK along with other health charities, including Manchester’s Tobacco Free Futures, have slammed the postponement, while Labour has accused David Cameron of ‘caving in’ to the tobacco industry.

MM revealed in April that on average six children a day took up smoking in Manchester, with cigarette packaging cited as a major factor.

Dr Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK's chief executive, said now is the time to make change.

“The Government has made the wrong choice, it is unacceptable to stand by and watch as these lives are lost,” he said.

“The Government has stalled in the face of strong evidence and instead reacted to myths perpetuated by the tobacco industry, an industry well-known for suppressing the truth about its lethal products. 

“The Government had a choice – protect children from an addiction that kills 100,000 people in the UK every year or protect tobacco industry profits.”

Cancer Research UK findings estimate that 10,023 start smoking in Greater Manchester every year – 193 children a week, or 27 every day.

More than 60,000 people in the North West alone have signed up to support the Plain Packs Protect campaign to introduce plain, standardised tobacco packs.

However this campaign has faced competition from Japan Tobacco International who launched an anti-plain packaging campaign costing £2million last year.

Andrea Crossfield, director of Manchester smoking charity Tobacco Free Futures and leader of the region’s Plain Packs Protect campaign, encouraged Manchester residents to make their voices heard.

Ms Crossfield argued that a free vote would be the most suitable way to tackle the issue, while claiming the government have failed to act.

“The government bowing to tobacco industry pressure shows a complete lack of leadership when we need it most – when lives are at stake,” she said.

Ms Crossfield claimed that anti-plain packaging campaigns, such as that launched by Japan Tobacco International, are designed purely to recruit new generations of smokers.

“The tobacco industry spends vast amounts of time and money targeting young people,” she said.

“Smoking is a childhood addiction. In the North West, four out of five children who try smoking do so before they are 14 years old. We need action now.”

A recent report by the Public Health Research Consortium makes for equally uncomfortable reading for the government.

It revealed that86% of young people surveyed in the North West thought plain packs were less attractive than branded packs.

And tellingly 62% of people in the North West supported the introduction of plain, standardised packaging.

However, more than 150,000 children start smoking each year in the UK and enter into a lifelong habit which has been shown to be a childhood addiction, not an adult choice.

Public health charity ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) suggested this number would keep rising unless swift intervention was made.

The charity’s Chief Executive, Deborah Arnott, slammed the Government’s indecision claiming it had lost its nerve.

“There is good evidence of overwhelming public support for standardised tobacco packaging,” she said. 

“And yet the Prime Minister and the Health Secretary have tamely surrendered to the tobacco industry on the issue.”

“This policy is not some barnacle on the ship of state; it is badly needed to protect public health and children’s health in particular.”

MM also reported in May that smoking in front of children cost the NHS £103million a year in the North West.

In this report Sir Richard Leese was quoted as saying that tobacco companies’ technique to get customers was ‘to catch ‘em young’ – and it seems many UK health experts have caught onto this.

Dr Hilary Emery, Chief Executive of the National Children’s Bureau, said the government must introduce plain cigarette packaging to help prevent children in poorer communities and vulnerable groups from taking up smoking.

“The government is stepping away is a sad day for child protection and child health,” she said.

“The introduction of standardised packaging for cigarettes and tobacco products would be an important step in cutting the number of children who start smoking every year. 

“We believe that Parliament should have the chance to vote on the issue as soon as possible.”

Dr Emery’s message was echoed by Dr Cass, who pointed out two-thirds of the country’s smoking population took up the habit at a young age.

In spite of recent developments health experts in Greater Manchester have made their case for highlighting the harm smoking causes.

Manchester City Council reported on Thursday that it had signed up to the Local Authority Declaration on Tobacco Control, promising it would do ‘all in its power’ to reduce smoking.

Councillor Paul Andrews, Executive Member for Adults, Health and Well-being at Manchester City Council, said this move was vital in tackling the nation’s smoking epidemic.

“Since public health returned to local authority control it is our responsibility to do all that we can to tackle smoking,” he said.

“We are making a clear commitment to tackle the harmful effects of tobacco.”

Picture courtesy of fried dough via Flickr, with thanks

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