Bill Esterson says Tories and Lib Dems have failed to tackle und

Bill Esterson and Jo McCullagh from Heart of Mersey

 

Sefton Central Labour MP Bill Esterson said the Government had failed to tackle the problem of under-age smoking after the Tories and Lib Dems removed the new laws to standardise tobacco packaging from last week's Queen's speech.

Bill Esterson, who has backed a Heart of Mersey campaign for standardised packaging, said the removal of the issue from the speech was a missed opportunity to deter young people from taking up smoking.

In the North West, 18% of 14-17 years olds smoke and every year across the nation an estimated 330,000 children under the age of 16 try cigarettes for the first time.

Smoking is the single, greatest cause of preventable illness and death in England, killing 80,000 people a year.

Bill said: "The removal from the Queen's speech of plans to introduce new laws on standardised tobacco packaging is very ominous. Health experts have told us all about the benefits of removing branding from cigarette packaging. 

"Standardised packaging is intended to protect children and young people from starting to smoke. Young people are a key target market for the tobacco industry, and particularly young women. The marketing message is: smoking is cool, glamorous, and adult behaviour.

"There are 10 million adult smokers in the UK. Two thirds of smokers start before they are 18 and the vast majority while still teenagers. Every year more than 200,000 children in the UK start smoking. Half of all lifetime smokers will die from smoke-related disease. Smoking remains the major cause of premature death and disease killing over 100,000 people in the UK each year, more than the next six causes of preventable death put together.

"Standardised packs will remove branding. The pack and contents will be a standard shape, size and colour, and health warnings on front and back will be increased in size. All packs will have a quitline number and web address.

"While we know the tobacco industry has been putting pressure on the Government to sink plans to introduce standardised packaging, I will be asking the Government why wasn't it in the Queen's speech. If the Government is not taking into account the expert advice of health professional, who exactly is influencing Government policy?"

Bill questioned the Government's commitment to public health.

Bill said: "The Tories and Lib Dems are willing to forge ahead with their disastrous reorganisation of the NHS, but they will not take the simple measure of standardising tobacco packaging, which will greatly reduce the attractiveness of tobacco for the next generation.

“A child starts smoking every 28 minutes in the North West. New estimates show that in the North West over 18,000 children start smoking every year, which is 52 children a day.

"Tobacco kills half of all its regular users, and the pack itself is the last place the industry has left to advertise its wares. Some packaging designs are clearly aimed at young people, with young girls targeted by thin, pink, flowery boxes. Standardised packs would put an end to these marketing tactics and health experts say the number of young people taking up smoking would be slashed.

"This Tory-Lib Dem Government's failure to take on the tobacco industry is shameful and I will continue to push both Tory and Lib Dem MPs in Parliament to force this back onto the Government's agenda over the next 12 months."

 

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