Public health charity Action on Smoking and Health in Wales is calling for a ban on glossy tobacco marketing aimed at teenage girls.

On World No Tobacco Day (May 31st) ASH Wales says the UK Government must put public health before profits by banning tobacco companies from using eye-catching packaging aimed at young people.

In Wales 16% of 15 year old girls smoke at least once a week compared with 11% of 15 year old boys (WHO Health Behaviour in School-aged Children Survey 2009/10).

There is evidence that standard packaging:

  • makes tobacco packaging look less attractive to young people
  • increases the effectiveness of health warnings
  • prevents use of misleading colours to imply different strengths, and
  • removes the cool imagery associated with certain cigarette brands

Australia was the first country in the world to implement standard packs in December 2012. New Zealand, Scotland and Ireland have said they will follow, but the measure has not been included in the UK Government’s legislative programme for this year.

Welsh Health Minister Mark Drakeford has signalled his support for standard packaging and has written to the Westminster Government urging them to introduce it across the UK as soon as possible.

A YouGov survey for ASH Wales in 2013 has also revealed that two thirds of the Welsh public now want to see standard packs for tobacco.

Chief Executive of ASH Wales Elen de Lacy said:

"If the tobacco companies didn't think attractive packaging had any influence on young people, their biggest target, why do they spend millions of pounds on this sort of marketing every year? Because it works.

“We spoke to schoolgirls aged between 11 and 15 around Wales who told us that current cigarette packaging made them want to buy the product and that the slim-line varieties would be nice to put in their handbag. They said some of the glossy packaging looked like they contained chewing gum, perfume, posh tissues and even Lego.
“When they were shown a standard pack they said they wouldn't want to carry that around. One told us the standard pack was “medical looking” and that if cigarettes were sold like that she would be less likely to buy it.

“Pink, shiny boxes and slim-line packs with ‘Vogue’ on the cover are clearly targeted at teenage girls and must be banned. Smoking kills and we must take away the tobacco industry’s last form of advertising.

“There is no evidence that standardised tobacco packaging would increase the illicit trade as the tobacco industry would have us believe, as packs will still require the coloured health warnings, statutory information and covert markings which help to distinguish them from counterfeit products.

“We know that coordinated action has helped to reduce the proportion of smuggled cigarettes to less than 10% in the UK and there is nothing to suggest that plain packaging will hinder this reduction.”

ASH Wales is urging people in Wales to support the plain packs campaign by writing to their local MP.

Notes

World No Tobacco Day is a global campaign run every year by the World Health Organisation to highlight the health risks associated with tobacco use. The theme of this year’s campaign is "ban tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship".

Tobacco kills nearly six million people each year, 600 000 of which are non-smokers dying from breathing second-hand smoke.