Charities delight at standardised tobacco packaging announcement

Date published: 23 January 2015

Tobacco Free Futures and the British Dental Health Foundation have given a warm welcome to the government announcement that it will put Regulations on the standardised ‘plain’ packaging of cigarettes and other tobacco products to a vote in Parliament before the General Election.

The move to prevent cigarettes being sold in glitzy packaging will help protect the next generation of children and young people from starting to smoke.

The North West social enterprise, Tobacco Free Futures, which has been leading the campaign for standardised packaging in the region, helped more than 60,000 people in the North West to have their say on the government’s plain packaging consultation – the largest regional response in the country. This includes 12,200 residents from Greater Manchester.

Andrea Crossfield, Chief Executive of Tobacco Free Futures which led the campaign in the North West said: “This is excellent news and a victory for our children and young people, and a heavy loss for the tobacco industry. The Regulations still need to be passed into law but support amongst all MPs – especially in the North West – is strong, and we believe that the great majority of MPs and Peers will vote for the Regulations.

“The evidence is clear that heavily branded, brightly coloured packs are attractive to children. That’s why the tobacco industry spends vast amounts of time and money targeting young people, and opposing this measure in order to recruit the next generation of smokers.

“Thank you to everyone who has supported us with this pioneering health measure.”

The move will also hopefully bring about improvements in oral health and a reduction in the number of mouth cancer cases, and Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter OBE, welcomed the decision.

Dr Carter said: “We have often criticised the government on its lack of movement on the issue, but I am delighted that this vote has been brought forward. There was a concern that the government would continue to drag its feet over the decision, but after a review of the evidence available it is pleasing to see standardised packaging just over a year away.

“Smoking can cause a variety of oral health problems including tooth staining, dental plaque, bad breath, tooth loss and gum disease. Of more concern is the significant risk of developing life-threatening diseases such as lung disease and mouth cancer.

“Tobacco remains the largest risk factor for mouth cancer, a disease that has increased dramatically in the last decade. Last numbers show there are more than 6,500 cases and 2,000 deaths each year from the disease. This announcement is a significant and large step in the right direction to start reducing those figures.”

“Having considered all the evidence, the Secretary of State and I believe that the policy is a proportionate and justified response to the considerable public health harm from smoking tobacco. The Chief Medical Officer has confirmed this view.

“I now propose that we lay regulations for standardised packaging in this parliament to allow for them to come into force at the same time as the European Tobacco Products Directive in May 2016. In doing so we would be bringing the prospect of our first smoke-free generation one step closer.”

Dr Nigel Carter OBE said: “I hope all MPs across the UK back the measure when it comes to vote so we can see levels of health improvement seen in Australia.”

There is already strong public support in the North West for standardised packaging with 64% calling for the measure to be introduced. Cross party MP support to save thousands of lives and protect kids from taking up a lifetime of addiction is also strong, with John Leech, MP for Withington and Mike Kane, MP for Wythenshawe and Sale East recently meeting with young constituents to confirm their support.

In July 2013, a cross Party group of peers tabled an amendment to the Children and Families Bill to give the Government powers to make Regulations on standardised packaging. On 28 November 2013 the Government announced that it would table its own amendment to the Bill. This amendment was passed overwhelmingly in both the House of Lords (nem con) and House of Commons (only 24 MPs voted against).

In the North West, 4 out of 5 children who try smoking do so before they are 14 years old and around 18,000 children from the North West start to smoke each year. Two thirds of current smokers started when children and half of all lifetime smokers will die from a smoking related disease.

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