Plain speaking: We need standardised packs now

By on 23/12/2013 in Blog, Cllr Bedser

Plain Packaging infographicCabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, Cllr Steve Bedser, who chairs Birmingham's Tobacco Control Alliance and also leads on smoking for the Local Government Association Community Wellbeing Board, sets out his New Year’s Wish for 2014.

In my work as Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, I often say that the scariest thing I know about Birmingham is that one in four of our 11-year-olds is obese.

It is a terrifying statistic, I'm sure you'll agree. But as we're playing the numbers game, here's another that should not be allowed to pass unnoticed.

Every single day nine young people in Birmingham take up smoking.

Nine a day! That's 3,285 a year or 3,294 in a leap year. Over 30,000 every decade… you get the point. It's another shocking statistic.

This means that over the next 12 months, more than 3,000 of our young people will condemn themselves to a lifetime of ill health and of course financial strain. Many of them will die prematurely after being seduced by a product that kills almost 5,000 Birmingham people every single year.

And that's why I want 2014 to be the year we finally see the introduction of plain packaging for cigarettes in this country.

Responding to pressure from public health organisations and major charities like Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation plus of course overwhelming evidence, the Government last month agreed to take another look at this vital issue and I would urge them to act now.

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.

And what of the pro-tobacco lobby?

Just as they fought long and hard against the ban on smoking in pubs, bars and restaurants, they will do everything they can to derail the campaign for plain packaging. We'll see questionable 'research', outraged 'experts' and of course 'civil liberty' appeals to let people kill themselves with tobacco if that's what they want to do.

The opponents of plain packaging will say and do anything to protect their profits - profits that are maintained and boosted by 3,285 young people from Birmingham every single year.

This eye-opening document gives you some idea of the tactics employed by the tobacco industry to influence health policy: http://www.ash.org.uk/SmokeFilledRoom

Well I think enough is enough. The time has come for action.

So for the sake of the young people yet to be tempted by the propaganda, slick marketing and branding of the tobacco industry, let's make 2014 the year of plain packaging.

Future generations will thank us for it but if we fail to act, they will never forgive us.

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