Over 78,500 children have started smoking since UK Government's consultation on standardised tobacco packaging ended

This Valentine’s day the Smokefree Action Coalition is calling on the UK Government to take action and “have a heart” by committing to legislation to make all tobacco packaging standard. Today is the tenth anniversary of the implementation of the ban on tobacco advertising and the seventh anniversary of the Commons vote for smokefree legislation.

The clock is ticking. Since the consultation on the legislation ended just over six months ago, it is estimated that 78,500 children will have started smoking in the UK, a number which grows by 430 every day. Now the Smokefree Action Coalition, an alliance of over 190 health organisations including ASH Wales, the BMA, medical royal colleges, public health bodies, academic institutions and health charities are calling on the Government to publish the results of its consultation and announce that it will go ahead with legislation.

Currently in the UK, there are no restrictions on the way tobacco multinationals are allowed to promote their brands through packaging. The packs are now the principal form of tobacco promotion and are designed to attract existing and potential consumers with colourful and eye-catching imagery.

Elen de Lacy, Chief Executive of ASH Wales, said:

“It’s time to make attractive tobacco packaging history and to introduce standard packs in the UK. No more pink and shiny packaging or tobacco packs that look like perfume boxes. No more slim-line cigarettes with ‘Vogue’ on the cover which are targeted directly at teenage girls. Smoking kills and we must take away the tobacco industry’s last form of advertising to our children.”

Sir Richard Thompson, president of the Royal College of Physicians, said:

“As a young doctor I was depressed to see so many patients in their 50s and 60s suffering because they had started smoking as children. Back then there was very little we could do, but now we have the opportunity to help protect our children by implementing standardised packaging.”

Smoking is a childhood addiction, not an adult choice. More than 150,000 children start smoking each year in the UK. Half of all lifelong smokers will die from their addiction, amounting to over 100,000 people last year in the UK.

Putting tobacco products in standardised packs is a popular measure. Opinion research shows that 62% of the public support the plain, standardised packaging of tobacco products, with more smokers supporting than opposing the measure. Over 200,000 people have expressed their support for the introduction of plain, standardised packaging of tobacco products in the UK. Internationally, standardised packaging is already in place in Australia which became the first country to implement such legislation in December 2012.

It's time for the UK to follow suit.

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