Plain packaging U-turn will cost lives

By on 12/07/2013 in Cllr Bedser, News
Cllr Steve Bedser

Cllr Steve Bedser

Failure to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes will cost lives and has been labelled 'a public health disaster' by a leading Birmingham councillor.

Following a nationwide consultation last year, health campaigners had expected Ministers to introduce legislation for plain packaging on cigarettes.

But the plan is now being put on hold, while the Government assesses whether similar legislation in Australia has seen a reduction in smoking levels.

Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, Cllr Steve Bedser, who chairs Birmingham's Tobacco Control Alliance, said: “I find it hugely disappointing that the Government is not introducing legislation that would undoubtedly save lives by reducing smoking uptake amongst children and young people.

“There is strong evidence to show that plain or standardised packs are less appealing to young people, while health warnings are more prominent and effective.”

Cllr Bedser, who also leads on smoking for the Local Government Association Community Wellbeing Board, added: “This is not so much about existing smokers but about helping our children avoid a lifetime of addiction that is expensive and health destroying.

“This is a simple choice between the interests of our young people and those of the tobacco giants and that's no contest as far as I'm concerned.

“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 plain packaging would help to protect children and young people from the harmful effects of tobacco.”

  • 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:

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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