Govt urged to press ahead with plain packaging for cigarettes

By on 17/04/2013 in Cllr Bedser, News
Cllr Steve Bedser

Cllr Steve Bedser

Birmingham's public health lead, Cllr Steve Bedser, has urged the Government to resist lobbying from the tobacco industry and press ahead with plans to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes.

Following a nationwide consultation last year, health campaigners are optimistic Ministers will introduce legislation for plain packaging on cigarettes later this year.

The tobacco industry is fighting back and Japan Tobacco International (JTI) has recently taken out full-page adverts in national newspapers, accusing the government of having no evidence for its proposals.

But Cabinet member for Public Health Cllr Bedser, who chairs Birmingham's Tobacco Control Alliance and leads on smoking for the Local Government Association Community Wellbeing Board, has urged the Government not to be swayed.

He said: “These adverts are clearly attempting to pressurise the Government into abandoning this very welcome legislation. But ministers must not be bullied into abandoning plain packaging.

“There is very strong evidence to show that plain or standardised packs are less appealing to young people, while plain packs will also enhance the effectiveness of the picture health warnings currently displayed on cigarette packs in motivating smokers to quit.

“Tobacco packaging has become the tobacco companies' number one tool for marketing their products. They use innovative marketing strategies to attract new smokers, especially children into a lifetime of addiction that is expensive, health destroying but commercially profitable for the industry.”

He continued: “In the UK the majority of smokers start before the age of 18 and in Birmingham, around a third of 16-24 year olds are actively smoking. I firmly believe the legislation will help to protect children and young people from the harmful effects of tobacco.

“We must remember that the tobacco industry fought long and hard against the smoking ban, but thankfully their lobbying was ignored and the smoking ban has been a huge success. Now I hope the Government stands firm on the issue of plain packaging.”

ENDS

For more information contact Geoff Coleman on 0121 303 3501

Notes to editors

  • In Birmingham around 1 in 5 adults smoke, equating to around 185,000 smokers.
  • Every year over 4,500 people die in Birmingham from a smoking related disease.
  • Smoking is directly linked with Birmingham's three biggest killers, and is directly attributable to:
  • 1 in 4 of all cancers,
  • 1 in 5 deaths from cardiovascular disease (heart disease and stroke),
  • 1 in 3 of all deaths from respiratory disease

Quitting smoking has been shown to have significant health benefits. Research has reported that a smoker who quits by the age of 30 years can increase their life expectancy by 10 years and quitting at the age of 50 halves the risk of smoking related mortality.

For information on quitting and to find out about local clinics contact 'Call2Quit' on free phone 0800 052 5855 or text 'Quit' to 80 800. Alternatively, go to: http://smokefree.nhs.uk/

Treating diseases caused by smoking is estimated to cost the NHS around £5.2 billion every year equating to about 5.5 per cent of all NHS expenditure.

Smoking causes significant economic burden both in terms of increased health expenditure and cost to the Birmingham economy in the form of absenteeism, working days lost and premature retirement. Premature deaths from smoking is estimated to cost the Birmingham economy £24m each year.

Providing NHS Stop Smoking Services is just one approach to reducing the number of smokers in Birmingham. Through the leadership of Councillor Bedser, the city has a reinvigorated a successful Tobacco Control Alliance that brings together key partners from across the city to tackle tobacco-related issues. The 2011/12 tobacco control action plan focuses on work around reducing uptake of smoking by young people, reducing access to counterfeit tobacco and maintaining and creating a smoke-free environment.

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