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78,500 kids have taken-up smoking while plain packs wait

Campaigners urge government for legislation

Jo Carlowe

Friday, 15 February 2013

Since the consultation ended on plain packaging for cigarettes, 78,500 children have started smoking according to the Smokefree Action Coalition.

Health officials have had until last August to publish the results of a Government consultation on introducing plain packs, but campaigners are still waiting.

The Smokefree Action Coalition, an alliance of over 190 health organisations including the British Medical Association, medical royal colleges, public health bodies, academic institutions and health charities, is calling on the Government to publish the results and announce that it will go ahead with legislation.

Since the consultation on the legislation ended just over six months ago, the Coalition claims 78,500 children will have started smoking in the UK, a number which grows by 430 every day. They say more than 150,000 children start smoking each year in the UK and half all lifelong smokers will die from their addiction, amounting to over 100,000 people last year in the UK.

Currently in the UK, there are no restrictions on the way tobacco multinationals are allowed to promote their brands through packaging. The packs are now the principal form of tobacco promotion and are designed to attract existing and potential consumers with colourful and eye-catching imagery.

Legislation which ensures tobacco packaging is free from attractive designs will, above all else, help to discourage children from starting to smoke, say the campaigners.

Commenting on this, Sir Richard Thompson, President of the Royal College of Physicians, said: As a young doctor I was depressed to see so many patients in their 50s and 60s suffering because they had started smoking as children. Back then there was very little we could do, but now we have the opportunity to help protect our children by implementing standardised packaging.”

Opinion research shows that 62% of the public support the plain, standardised packaging of tobacco products, with more smokers supporting than opposing the measure. Over 200,000 people have expressed their support for the introduction of plain, standardised packaging of tobacco products in the UK.

Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of health charity ASH said: “The evidence is clear that heavily branded, brightly coloured packs are attractive to children.  It’s been six months since the consultation closed and the clock is ticking. Every day hundreds more children take up smoking - children who need protecting from tobacco industry marketing. The government must commit now to legislation to put all tobacco products in standard packs.”

While Dr Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, urged the government to act: “More than 80,000 Cancer Research UK supporters were among the 200,000 people calling on the government to introduce plain, standardised cigarette packs. Our supporters run marathons and climb mountains to bring forward the day when we beat cancer. When the Government has a practical way to help prevent cancer, we urge it to act.”

Internationally, standardised packaging is already in place in Australia which became the first country to implement such legislation in December 2012. 

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