Tower Hamlets Council is backing campaigns which call for Parliament to have a free vote on standardised packaging of cigarettes and other tobacco product after the Government decided it will not introduce legislation to enforce it.
Council research shows that in Tower Hamlets two thirds of smokers start as teenagers. The earlier people start smoking, the longer they smoke and therefore it is harder to give up. In the UK, more than 200,000 people under the age of 16 start to smoke every year.
The evidence backing standard packs was clearly set out in the Department of Health’s own consultation document. This found that plain standardised packaging is less attractive (especially to young people), improves the effectiveness of health warnings, reduces mistaken beliefs that some brands are ‘safer’ than others and is therefore likely to reduce smoking uptake amongst children and young people.
The council has a number of services which work hard to stop young people from starting to smoke. This includes a programme around under age sales, illegal tobacco and peer education in schools.
Plain packaging makes cigarettes less attractive to young people and if the government is truly committed to public health then tackling smoking should be a top priority. Furthermore, the public support standard packs. A poll conducted by YouGov on behalf of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) found that overall 64% of adults in Great Britain were in favour of the proposal.
Since the close of the public consultation Australia has implemented standard packs and Ireland has pledged to do so next year. The Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland Governments have all stated their support for the policy.
Mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman said: “Tower Hamlets has amongst the highest levels of smoking in the country. This is one of major reasons why we have higher levels of cancer and heart disease than elsewhere. At the local level we put every effort into stopping children starting and helping people stop. We need this commitment to be matched at national level to support what we are doing.”
Councillor Abdul Asad, Cabinet member for Health & Wellbeing added: “The evidence shows that plain standardised packaging is likely to have an impact on reducing levels of smoking in borough and we had welcomed the prospect of its introduction. The failure to introduce legislation is therefore disappointing and unhelpful in delivering on our priority to drive down smoking rates in the borough.”
For more information, please contact Mehreen Hussain, Tower Hamlets Communications Advisor, on 020 7364 4813 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to Editors
• The Department of Health consultation on standardised packaging started on 16th April 2012 and finished on 10th August 2012.
Standardised packaging was defined for the purposes of the consultation as:
• All internal and external packaging to be in a prescribed colour/s.
• All text on the pack, including brand names, to be in a standard colour and typeface.
• No branding, advertising or promotion to be permitted on the outside or inside of packs, or attached to the package, or on individual tobacco products themselves. For this purpose ‘branding’ includes logos, colours or other features associated with a tobacco brand.
• Any foils within a pack to be of a standard format and colour with no text permitted.
• Packs to be of a standard shape and opening
• Packs would still carry health warnings, fiscal marks and other markings to help identify fraud.
• The first poll total sample size was 12171 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 1st and 19th February 2013. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+). The second poll was conducted on the 10th and 11th March 2013 showing the views of the public by which party they supported. The poll used a representative sample of 1684 adults. Respondents were shown what a standard pack could look like, including larger health warnings as in Australia.
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