Young people from Sefton met the MP for Sefton Central, Bill Esterson, to call for the introduction of standardised tobacco packaging - a campaign backed by social enterprise Tobacco Free Futures.
They are calling for the protection of children and young people from tobacco industry branding and advertising through packaging – and they were supported by Bill Esterson, MP.
Bill Esterson, MP for Sefton Central, said: “Any measure that has the ability to save thousands of lives is positive and so I am fully supportive of the introduction of standardised tobacco packaging.
"More than 200,000 young people in the UK start to smoke every year and two-thirds of all smokers start before age 18. Legislation would prevent glitzy cigarette packaging enticing young people to take up such a dangerous addiction at an age where they may not be aware of the consequences.
“Support in Sefton is strong with over 2,100 residents signing up to support standardised packaging in 2012. I hope that we will now see this measure supported and implemented to protect young people both in Sefton and across the whole of England.”
The British Heart Foundation found in a recent poll that 9 out of 10 young people find standard packs to be less attractive than current tobacco packaging.
Adam Shaw 18, from Brighton-Le-Sands, is part of Sefton Smoking Prevention Project, which is delivered by Merseyside Youth Association in partnership with May Logan Healthy Living Centre.
He said: “I’ve just quit smoking and I believe the packaging contributed to me starting smoking and I know many other people who wouldn’t have started either.
“I didn’t know how packaging is used to attract young people and I think that standardised packaging would take away the social identity of smoking. Standard packs are bland and boring, which makes them unappealing. They also look more harmful and the colours imply that it is unhealthy, which isn’t the case with the packs we have now.”
Kieran Maher 16, from Bootle, a Sefton young advisor, said: “I would definitely want the Government to implement standard packaging, I think it could be a big help to break the cycle.
"Standardised packaging is not a cure to the epidemic that is smoking but it is a good tool to stop the rising number of social smokers amongst the younger generation.”
An independent evidence review on standardised packaging by Sir Cyril Chantler highlighted that the measure will reduce the number of children who smoke. The review found that ‘there is very strong evidence that exposure to tobacco advertising and promotion increases the likelihood of children taking up smoking’ and that ‘Branded cigarettes are ‘badge’ products, frequently on display, which therefore act as a ‘silent salesman.’
A short consultation is now underway following the publication of draft regulations and then MPs will vote in Parliament. The consultation will apply to the UK, meaning the UK could become the first place in Europe to take this step.
Dr Janet Atherton, Director of Public Health at Sefton Council said: “It is great to see Sefton teenagers coming forward to protect young people from being enticed to smoke through cigarette packaging.
“Standardised packaging would mean an end to glitzy colourful packaging, and help protect young people from being tempted into entering into such a dangerous addiction. Smoking kills one in two long-term smokers and so it is important that we implement any measure that will help us prevent children and young people from starting.
“The sooner regulations are put into place, the more young people we can protect.”
Andrea Crossfield, Chief Executive of Tobacco Free Futures, which is leading the campaign for standardised packaging in the North West said: “Packaging sells and smoking kills. Legislation would save thousands of young people in our region and protect many generations to come.
“There is already strong public support in the North West for standard packaging with 64% calling for this measure to be introduced. In August 2012 the government consultation saw more than 60,000 concerned North West residents agree that tobacco packaging should be made as unattractive as possible to discourage children from taking up smoking.
“Since the consultation started in 2012 we estimate that more than 400,000 children have started to smoke in the UK and we know that around 18,000 children from the North West start to smoke each year. I hope that MPs will support the draft regulations to prevent any more children being unnecessarily sucked into a lifetime of addiction, death and disease.”