Manchester teens are doing their bit to stub out smoking amongst their peers after Action on Smoking on Health (ASH) figures revealed 18,000 young people take up cigarettes each year in the region.
Voicing their views through Tobacco Free Futures, the youngsters have urged MPs to protect the nation’s children by approving the bill for plain cigarette packaging.
The North West enterprise hosted a series of workshops aimed at the power of advertising and how sophisticated designs help tobacco companies entice children into a lifetime of addiction and disease.
Across the region 64% of the public want standardised tobacco packaging according to a recent YouGov survey, with only 11% opposing the move.
Figures from campaigning public health charity ASH also revealed that a shocking 207,000 children start smoking each year while two thirds of smokers start before age 18.
If MPs and Lords vote in favour of standardised packaging before May’s general election, children could be protected from tobacco companies as early as 2016.
A member of Salford Lad’s and Girl’s Club, 15-year-old Tillie Quincey from Ordsall, said: “The standardised packaging is a way forward, it’s not going to stop smoking altogether but it will start to stop children thinking that the packs are cool.
“In the long term it will probably lower the amount of young people or anyone that smokes because the packs aren’t interesting anymore.”
Certain that distasteful images on cigarette packets will be a strong deterrent Accrington’s 14-year-old Ambar Siddique, a member of Hyndburn Youth Council, wants MPs to consider young people’s health and wellbeing when making a decision.
He said: “It might be too late for people who already smoke but it will definitely help put off a new generation from starting.
“The new pictures on standardised packs are grotesque and show the truth compared to branded packs with names like Vogue which is pretty glamorous and colourful.
“It makes out that cigarettes are safe and that is distracting away from the warnings.”
Tobacco Free Futures chief executive Andrea Crossfield has seen their support grow to 60,000 – a figure she says shows young people have had enough of the tobacco industry and are ready to challenge it.
She told MM: “Glitzy, colourful and glamorous cigarette packaging helps to attract the next generation of tobacco industry customers to replace the one in two smokers who die from their addiction.
“Unfortunately we see an estimated 18,000 young people take up smoking every year in the North West and this is something that needs to be stopped.
“We know that support for standardised packaging across the North West is strong, with 60,000 urging the government to remove branding and protect children through a public consultation in 2012.
“I hope that MPs will support this very important measure.”
Her opinion is shared by Withington MP John Leech, who has previously criticised the delay in standardised packaging legislation and today claimed that this has cost not only millions of pounds but lots of lives.
He said: “I’ve supported standardised packaging for a number of years and the sooner it comes in, the better.
“I’m glad this government is doing something about it but they should have done it two or three years ago when the issue first came up and when we lobbied for it.
“They’re experts at marketing these products and standardised packaging discourages people.”