Andrew Gwynne MP is supporting a call for the Government to bring in a law to require plain, standardised tobacco packaging after an estimated 836 young people started smoking in Tameside and 968 in Stockport during the last 12 months.
At a joint meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Groups on Smoking and Health and on Heart Disease, Andrew Gwynne MP heard about the successful introduction of standard tobacco packaging in Australia and also from a UK shopkeeper who supports the measure.
Exactly one year ago, the UK Government launched a public consultation on tobacco packaging but has not yet issued a response.  In the twelve months since the start of the consultation, more than 200,000 children have taken up smoking across the UK. 836 children in Tameside and 968 in Stockport have started to smoke – equivalent to around 16 every week. 
Andrew Gwynne MP said:
“It is appalling that so many children in Tameside and Stockport are being tempted into taking up smoking every day.
“Cigarette packs are being designed to make smoking look cool and attractive yet the reality is a life-time of addiction, illness and premature death. If we are to stop a new generation becoming addicted to this deadly habit we need to act now. Australia has led the way with standard cigarette packs which show the gruesome truth about smoking. The UK can, and should be the next country to implement this life-saving measure.”
Professor Mike Daube, of Curtin University, who chaired the Australian Government’s expert committee that recommended standard packaging commented:
“Contrary to the myths peddled by the tobacco industry, the standard tobacco packaging in Australia has been a great success. Only four months after the legislation came into effect, it is clear that retailers are coping well, and there are very positive indications that smokers are being encouraged to quit. Now that the promotional elements have gone, the cigarette pack has turned from a fashion accessory to a stark and unavoidable reminder of the dangers of smoking.
“The UK has a good track record in terms of tackling tobacco but needs to do more to prevent a new generation getting hooked. I hope that the Government will follow Australia’s lead and bring in standard tobacco packaging as soon as possible.”
John McClurey, a shopkeeper in the north-east of England, is also in favour of standard packaging. He commented:
“Retailers are fed a lot of misinformation from the tobacco companies about the likely impact of standard packaging on our businesses. But real life experience in Australia shows that small shop-keepers have nothing to fear. No-one has gone out of business as a result of this measure. Tobacco sales are already declining and as standard packs will mainly deter children from smoking, the impact will be gradual over the longer term.”
 The figures for child smoking uptake have been calculated by Cancer Research UK, based on national data. The local figures are estimates and may be higher or lower than those stated above.
Australia is the first country in the world to introduce standard (“plain”) tobacco packaging. This law came into effect on 1 December 2012. For examples of how a standard pack might look in the UK see: http://www.smokefreeaction.org.uk/plain-packaging.html
In February 2003, implementation of the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act put an end to most forms of tobacco advertising: i.e. ads on billboards and the print media. This was followed by a ban on direct marketing and by 2005 a ban on cigarette-branded sports sponsorship, leaving cigarette packs as the main form of tobacco marketing in the UK. The ad ban has helped to cut youth smoking from 10% of 11-15 year olds (2002) to 5% (2011).
However, ten years on, cigarette packs are still being used to promote the product, attracting around 570 children in the UK to become smokers every day.
Smoking is a leading cause of cardiovascular disease, causing around 18,000 deaths a year in England.