THE number of children and young people who smoke could be significantly reduced if cigarettes were sold in plain packs.
This was the message from Cancer Focus Northern Ireland, the new name for the Ulster Cancer Foundation, as the charity addressed MLAs at the monthly meeting of the All Party Group on Cancer at Stormont.
The meeting raised awareness and support of the government consultation into plain packaging for cigarettes which runs until 10th July.
Gerry McElwee, Head of Cancer Prevention said, “Every year 340,000 children in the UK are tempted to smoke, that’s an estimated 10,000 children here in Northern Ireland. Glossy packs are vital tools for the tobacco industry - they make cigarettes seem appealing and attract thousands of young people to buy them. Tobacco companies take every opportunity to maximise this by using shiny materials, holograms and colours to create a positive association with cigarette brands.
“The introduction of plain packaging will make cigarettes less attractive to consumers and will increase the effectiveness of health warnings. These warnings are currently competing with brand logos and colours but under the proposed legislation, all trademarks, colour schemes and graphics will be banned making health warnings more obvious.
“Plain packagaing for cigarettes has overwhelming support from the general public. A YouGov Poll in March 2012 showed that 64% of local people support this measure.
“In Northern Ireland smoking caused an estimated 16,696 admissions to hospitals in 2010/11 with hospital treatment of smoking related diseases costing a massive £119m per year. The total costs to the Health Service and indeed to our whole society are much greater.
“Cancer Focus supports plain packs as a major step forward in our strategy to reduce smoking-related ill health and premature death. We call on all our supporters, heath organisations, politicians and the public to show their support for plain packs by registering their vote at www.communityni.org/campaign/plain-packs.