Health chief demands action to tackle children smoking

In the last year more than 1,600 children in Warwickshire have started smoking, sparking calls from the county’s health chief to take urgent action in the branding on cigarette packets.

children smokingFriday is World No Tobacco Day and Warwickshire County Council’s Director of Public Health, Dr John Linnane, says the Government should be taking action to introduce standard packs for cigarettes to protect children from tobacco marketing.

Warwickshire County Council Tobacco Control Partnership is supporting standard packs and calling on the Government to urgently publish their response to the consultation on legislation, which closed over nine months ago, and to introduce legislation to implement this measure.

Dr Linnane says is a measure that will benefit children, with good evidence published at the time the government consulted on this issue that standard packs are: less attractive, particularly to young people; make the health warnings stand out more; and are less misleading about the harms of smoking than current packs.

Dr John Linnane, Warwickshire County Council Director of Public Health said: “Tackling tobacco is one of the most important things we can do to improve the health of people in Warwickshire. Acting on standard packaging will support us in Warwickshire in our objective to drive down the number of children taking up a lethal habit.

“In the last year in Warwickshire more than 1,600 young people between the ages of 11-15 have started smoking. There is strong evidence to show that introducing standard packaging could make a lasting impact on the number of young people drawn into a habit which can last a life-time.”

The introduction of standard packaging is a popular measure with the public – those in favour outnumber those against by 5 to 1. In the West Midlands, 65% of the population have shown their support for the measure with only 13% opposing it.

Cllr Bob Stevens, County Council Portfolio Holder for Public Health, said: “Any measure that helps people to give up smoking, or discourages them from starting, is welcome and evidence shows that standard packaging can contribute towards this objective.”

The tobacco industry has opposed this measure arguing that it is not in the public’s interest as it would increase the trade in illicit tobacco. However there is no evidence that this would be the case.

On the international stage the UK has been a world leader in acting to prohibit the harmful promotion of tobacco. We have the opportunity again to lead the way and implement this policy to protect our children.

In Warwickshire there is a free Stop Smoking Service for people wishing to quit. For help and advice on stopping smoking call 0800 0852917, text LIFE to 80800 or visit Smoke Free Warwickshire