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14 February 2013, 06:13
New stats show 6,758 North East children a year start smoking - there's calls for plain tobacco packaging to be brought in across the UK.
FRESH North East is calling upon the Government to commit to legislation for the plain, standardised packaging of tobacco and cigarettes to end glossy packs aimed at young people and protect future generations from tobacco promotion.
It's now six months since the national Government consultation on plain, standardised packaging for tobacco closed, with no decision yet made by Ministers.
Since the consultation on the legislation ended it is estimated that 78,490 children will have started smoking in the UK - a number which grows by 430 every day.
Now the Smokefree Action Coalition, an alliance of over 190 health organisations including FRESH, the Royal College of Physicians, Cancer Research UK, ASH and the British Heart Foundation, wants the Government to publish the results of its consultation and announce that it will go ahead with legislation.
Evidence shows standardised packs would be less attractive to children - and standardised packs would also stop tobacco firms using white and silver colours to create the false belief that some brands are less harmful than others.
Ailsa Rutter, director of Fresh, said:
"The evidence is clear that heavily branded, brightly coloured packs are attractive to children. Most smokers start as children.
We are appalled at the way multinational tobacco companies are increasingly using glossy brands and pack designs to make smoking more attractive to young people.
There are packs with designs that look like Lego, perfume and lip gloss here on shop shelves in the North East."
Former smoker and mum-of-one, Louise Morris, 36, from Walker in Newcastle, believes attractive packaging is making smoking more fashionable amongst young people. She said:
"I started smoking with a group of friends when I was 13 years old.
We all thought it was really fashionable to smoke the brand of cigarettes that looked the most attractive and I remember smoking cigarettes in a shiny gold packet, because it made us feel like we were smoking a glamorous brand of cigarettes that looked more expensive compared to everyone else's cigarettes."
More than 13,500 people and 129 organisations in the North East - including every local authority and primary care organisation - supported calls for standardised packaging to reduce the appeal of tobacco products and stop some brands being seen as lower harm.
Both the Trading Standards Institute and the North East Trading Standards Association have stated standardised packs would be no easier to counterfeit than current branded packs and do not consider it would have any impact on the illicit market, which has shrunk by half in the last decade and currently around 9% of cigarettes are believed to be illegal ones.
Packs would still carry coded identifiers to enable HMRC officers to tell real product from illegal.