Packaging sells, smoking kills: Wigan children join Andy Burnham to call for ban on ‘glitzy’ cigarette packets

School children in Wigan are urging the Government to implement a law that will protect them from glitzy and enticing cigarette packs.

Chloe Legland, Courtney Burke and Scarlet Ives met with their MP and Shadow Secretary of State for Health, Andy Burnham, on Friday August 1 to call for the introduction of standardised tobacco packaging.

Wigan became the first council in the UK to sign an early day motion for the introduction of standardised packs back in 2012.

Andy Burnham, MP for Leigh, said: “More than 200,000 young people in the UK start to smoke every year and two-thirds of all smokers start before age 18.

“Legislation would prevent glitzy cigarette packaging enticing young people to take up such a dangerous addiction at an age where they may not be aware of the consequences.

“Support in Wigan and Leigh is strong with over 3,509 residents signing up to support standardised packaging in 2012.

“I hope that we will now see this measure supported and implemented to protect young people both in Leigh and across the whole of England.”

The British Heart Foundation found in a recent poll that 9 out of 10 young people find standard packs to be less attractive than current tobacco packaging.

Courtney Burke, aged 13, from Whelley, Wigan, said: “Standard packs might help to stop people from smoking because the packs look scary and clearly show how bad smoking is for you.”

Chloe Legland, aged 13, also from Whelley, said: “The branded packs are really pretty so you might think the cigarettes won’t harm you but the standard packs make it clear that they are harmful.”

An independent evidence review on standardised packaging by Sir Cyril Chantler highlighted that the measure will reduce the number of children who smoke.

The review found that ‘there is very strong evidence that exposure to tobacco advertising and promotion increases the likelihood of children taking up smoking’ and that branded cigarettes are ‘badge’ products, frequently on display, which therefore act as a ‘silent salesman’.

A short consultation is now underway following the publication of draft regulations before MPs vote in Parliament.

The consultation will apply to the UK, meaning it could become the first place in Europe to take this step.

Chair of the Wigan & Leigh Tobacco Control Alliance, Cllr Keith Cunliffe, said: “Wigan Council became the first in England to pass a motion supporting plain packaging for tobacco products in March 2012.

“Therefore, I’m pleased there’s progress on this issue but I would like to see things move even faster.

“Delay risks more people becoming exposed to tobacco marketing and being tempted to begin a deadly habit.

“The campaign for plain packaging is not primarily aimed at stopping existing smokers, who will often have smoked the same brand for a considerable period. The focus is on stopping young people starting smoking. Children should not be subject to tobacco marketing.”

Andrea Crossfield, Chief Executive of Tobacco Free Futures, which is leading the campaign for standardised packaging in the North West, said: “Packaging sells and smoking kills. Legislation would save thousands of young people in our region and protect many generations to come.

“There is already strong public support in the North West for standard packaging with 64% calling for this measure to be introduced.

“In August 2012, the Government consultation saw more than 60,000 concerned North West residents agree that tobacco packaging should be made as unattractive as possible to discourage children from taking up smoking.

“Since the consultation started in 2012 we estimate that more than 400,000 children have started to smoke in the UK and we know that around 18,000 children from the North West start to smoke each year.

“I hope that MPs will support the draft regulations to prevent any more children being unnecessarily sucked into a lifetime of addiction, death and disease.”

Research has shown that government action on standardised packaging would help to reduce the 207,000 children who start smoking every year.

Image courtesy of Andy Burnham, with thanks

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