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Stop the tobacco industry hooking our young - Newcastle

A Newcastle MP and the Leader of Newcastle City Council are backing proposed new restrictions on tobacco promotion this World No Tobacco Day (May 31).

Newcastle North MP Catherine McKinnell and Councillor Nick Forbes are supporting a campaign for tobacco products to be sold in standardised packaging to help make smoking history for more children.

Over 60,000 people nationwide have now put their names to a national Government consultation on whether plain, standardised packaging of tobacco would make packs less attractive to young people and make the damage to health much more obvious.

The average age for smokers starting in the North East is just 15, and evidence shows* children are more likely to be attracted to glitzy, colourful tobacco packaging.

Catherine McKinnell said: “The cigarette industry still invests huge sums of money in advertising and marketing their products in this country in order to recruit new customers, nearly all of whom are children and young people.

“Plain standardised packaging would eliminate the attraction of packaging, particularly to impressionable young people, and help to end confusion over perceived differing levels of harm via the use of colours, which sends misleading messages that some products are safer or less toxic than others. 

“Two thirds of regular smokers start before the age of 18.  I’m pleased to support any initiative that can help reduce this shocking statistic.”

FRESH is supporting the Plain Packs Protect campaign, backed by ASH, the British Heart Foundation and Cancer Research UK (CRUK) in support of this measure.

Every year, another 340,000 children in the UK are tempted in some shape of form to try smoking. Research shows that they are more likely to be lured by the designed tobacco packs, than by standardised packs. CRUK recently found that 85 per cent of people in the North East believe that children should not be exposed to any form of tobacco marketing – such as glamorous packaging.

Dr Fu-Meng Khaw, director of public health for Newcastle PCT and Newcastle City Council, said: "No parent wants their child to smoke and we are asking whether parents in Newcastle are happy for harmful products to be promoted in colourful packaging that attracts teenagers and young people.

“Plain packaging would be an important step to end this form of tobacco promotion and discourage many children from taking up smoking in the first place. Most smokers start as children and I would urge everyone who doesn’t want their own child or grandchild from smoking to support plain, standardised packaging.”

Leader of Newcastle City Council, Councillor Nick Forbes, said: “It’s crucial we prevent young people from starting to smoke, as it’s the best way we can protect them developing chronic illness or dying a nasty, painful, early death.

“I therefore urge people in the North East to support the Plain Packs Protect campaign, so that we can make smoking history for our children.”

Ailsa Rutter, director of FRESH, said: “We are delighted to have MPs and Council Leaders’ backing for this, as well as doctors who see the harm of smoking on their wards every day. All support for this vital measure which will ultimately help to make smoking history for children.

“By supporting the introduction of standardised packs, the North East will be playing a part in helping to turn off the tap of a whole new generation of smokers who are being lured in by attractive product designs which look like cosmetics, MP3 players, crayons and also glamorous slimline cigarettes.

“Smoking remains our biggest killer in the North East, with 11 deaths a day from smoking related disease. We would encourage everyone to pledge their support for this to help protect the next generation of young people from taking up smoking and suffering from a lifetime of addiction and ill health.”

To pledge your support to the Plain Packs Protect campaign and for your say in the Government’s public consultation, sign up today at

To watch a short film on what people in the North East think about current tobacco packaging and the introduction of standardised packs, click here:

You can also follow FRESH on facebook and Twitter at FreshSmokeFree.