The Bolton public are being urged to sign a pledge encouraging the government to enforce plain, standardised tobacco packaging to protect children from cigarettes.
The Plain Packs Protect campaign, supported by Tobacco Free Futures and NHS Bolton, was launched in Bolton and across the North West in April to highlight that tobacco packaging is now an important way in which the tobacco industry engages new young smokers.
A new UK plain packaging law would mean the end of eye-catching branding including shiny holograms, pretty pastel colours and novelty wrappers.
By signing the pledge, via the website, the public will not only show that they support the initiative, but also have the option to send an automatically generated letter to their local MP.
Wendy Meredith, Director of Public Health for Bolton, said: “Taking the small amount of time needed to sign the pledge is a crucial step towards protecting our young people and future generations.
“I would encourage as many people as possible, especially parents, to respond and support this public health measure which will have a major, positive impact on the health of young people in Bolton.”
The campaign is also being backed by Bolton Council, and local politicians will be bringing a motion to a meeting of the full council on 4 July, asking their chief executive to write to the Secretary of State for Health, asking him to introduce standardised packaging of tobacco products to protect children and young people from tobacco marketing.
Bolton Council’s Cabinet Member for Public Health, Councillor Sufrana Bashir-Ismail, said: “By backing the Plain Packaging campaign, we are pledging our support to providing a healthier future for our children.”
“The main objective of Tobacco Free Futures is to protect children and young people from tobacco, and as part of that the Plain Packaging campaign aims to highlight how cigarette packaging is used to engage young people.
“There is clear evidence to show that the majority of smokers start at an early age and are then addicted for life. If we can discourage our young people from taking up the habit in the first place then we can help reduce the number of smoking-related deaths in the future.”
Bolton has an estimated 50,900 smokers costing the area approximately £79.4m every year. Two thirds of smokers start before they are 18 and smoking is the key cause of deaths in England with more people dying from smoking than the six other major causes, including obesity and alcohol. In Bolton smoking claims the lives of around 502 people every year.
Plain, standardised packaging of tobacco products will impact on smoking in three key ways: it will reduce the attractiveness to young people; curb misleading health messages and increase the prominence of the picture health warnings on packs, making them more impactful.
Andrea Crossfield, Director of Tobacco Free Futures said: “Smoking is a childhood addiction. In the North West a phenomenal 4 out of 5 children who try smoking do so before they are 14 years old.
“The tobacco industry spends a lot of time and money targeting young people because they have potential to be customers for life. The introduction of plain, standardised packaging would mean a victory for our children and a defeat for the tobacco industry, who have described the pack as their ‘silent salesman’.
“I urge everyone to tell the government that they support this measure to help to turn off the tap of new smokers, and help make smoking history for children.”