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Stop the tobacco industry hooking our young - Teesside

A TEESSIDE MP and pupils from a Guisborough school are backing proposed new restrictions on tobacco promotion this World No Tobacco Day (May 31).

Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham and pupils at Laurence Jackson school in Guisborough 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 standardised, plain 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 Teesside is just 15, and evidence shows* children are more likely to be attracted to glitzy, colourful tobacco packaging.

Mr Cunningham, who campaigns in the House of Commons on smoking and health issues, said: "The crafty tobacco industry marketing people must bear the blame for helping encourage young people to smoke with their clever and sophisticated packs in bright colours and targeted very much at particular groups. If attractive packaging doesn't encourage people to try a brand or be seen to have a so-called ‘cool’ pack, why do they spend millions developing and promoting them?

"I know, and the evidence proves that attractive marketing tools sell products and cigarettes are no different. Standard packaging would put a stop to that and we will see fewer young people start smoking - and suffer ill-health throughout their lives. For those reasons I'll continue to campaign for even greater constraints on the marketing of cigarettes."

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 or form to try smoking. Research shows that they are more attracted by branded packs than by plain, standardised packs. Cancer Research UK 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.

Mark Adams, assistant director of health improvement for Redcar and Cleveland, said: “Smoking is a childhood addiction. We know that the branding and design of tobacco packaging is used to make the product more attractive and to target specific audiences, including young people. Branding also distracts attention from the health message on the pack and misleads smokers about the harmfulness of different products.

“Plain packaging is one of a number of important measures to reduce the uptake of smoking by our young people, and it is for that reason that I support plain packaging.”

Fiona Hampton, clinical director for paediatrics and community child health at South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “Many smokers take up the habit in childhood, particularly if their parents smoke. Children who smoke can show signs of addiction within four weeks of starting to smoke. The younger they are when they start smoking the more likely they are to become addicted, to be heavy smokers and to have a lower chance of quitting.

“Those who start to smoke at a young age are at risk of impaired lung growth and premature lung function decline. They also have a bigger risk of developing heart disease, lung cancer and other respiratory problems and a much higher chance of an early death.

“This is a very real problem and we need to protect children from being exposed to tobacco industry tactics like glamorous exciting packaging which tempt them to start down the road to a lifetime of poor health and premature death.”

Students and teachers at Laurence Jackson School in Guisborough have also pledged their support to the campaign. Belinda Wheatman, senior deputy head, said: “Visits to our school by local stop smoking services have helped to raise pupils’ awareness to the health risks involved with smoking. We firmly believe that getting rid of misleading and glamorous tobacco packaging will only help to further protect children from being lured to start smoking in the first place.

“The introduction of plain standardised packaging would be a great step forward for making smoking less appealing to young people as a cool or glamorous thing to do which is why we’re backing this campaign.”

Ailsa Rutter, director of FRESH, said: “We are delighted to have Alex Cunningham’s backing for this, as well as doctors who see the harm of smoking on their wards every day. All support for this vital measure 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.