The government have been urged to introduce standard cigarette packaging by a number of regional groups headed up by South Manchester MP John Leech.
Originally intended to be introduced in the UK in July, the Government delayed the legislation to see how the scheme fared in Australia.
However, research from the British Heart Foundation (BHF) has shown that 36% of UK teenagers are deterred by plain cigarette packs.
Addressing the House of Commons on Thursday, Mr Leech said: “The BHF study has shown that when young people view packs stripped of colours and logos they believe the cigarettes are lower quality, will taste worse and are less appealing.
“Every day in the UK, 570 children try cigarettes for the first time.
“All the experts agree that standardised packaging on tobacco products deter young people from taking up smoking.”
Cigarette consumption has dropped sionce the scheme was in introduced in Australia, but a survey by British American Tobacco has shown that black market cigarette sales have increased as a result.
Black market sales have increased to 13.3% from 11.8%, which the company estimates is costing the Australian government and taxpayers abount $1 billion.
Mr Leech however was adamant that the introduction of the scheme in the UK would deter a large number of young smokers.
Despite the evidence from Australia about the cost of black market cigarettes, Mr Leech claimed that introducing plain packaging in the UK would save the NHS ‘billions of pounds’ in the long run.
Mr Leech was also critical of opposition to the scheme from Conservative and Labour members.
“Questions raised over the influence of advisors on senior Conservative Ministers remain unanswered,” he said, “but equally disturbing are the bogus claims of some Unions that argue standardised packaging will cause UK job losses.
“The decision to delay implementing standardised packs has been rightly criticised.
“It should have been introduced much earlier.”
A survey by Cancer Research UK released this week showed how teenagers’ impressions of cigarettes are being warped by packaging.
In the study, teenagers said they were most attracted to slim cigarettes with white filter tips, describing them as ‘classy’ and ‘nicer,’ while long brown cigarettes were seen to be ‘disgusting’ and ‘old-fashioned.’
White-tipped cigarettes were seen to evoke a feminine image ‘reminiscent of glamorous female stars,’ which added to the view that these cigarettes were less harmful than normal cigarettes.
A spokesman for Cancer Research UK said that the charity firmly believes that plain, standardised packaging would help reduce the appeal of tobacco and ultimately lower the number of smokers.
Abbie Paton, the Senior Public Health Development Advisor for Manchester Mental Health and Social Care’s Stop Smoking service said the company wholly supported the introduction of plain packaging.
“Smoking is an addiction which mainly starts in childhood or adolescence and is not a choice that an adult makes,” she said.
“We know that cigarette packages help promote this deadly habit as they are attractive and misleading, especially to children.
“The introduction of plain or standardised packaging would be cheap, easy to implement and has the support of the general public.
“Let’s make smoking history for our children.”
Image courtesy of Julie Bocchino, with thanks