TORBAY health bosses have welcomed strict new laws on plain packaging of tobacco products in Australia — and called for similar measures to be taken here.
The Aussie laws represent one of the biggest opportunities in public health since the introduction of Smokefree legislation, helping to protect young people from a lifetime of disease and addiction, say health bosses.
Smokefree South West led a wide range of partners to launch the campaign, Plain Packs Protect — the first campaign in the northern hemisphere to call for a change to the way tobacco companies market their products in the UK.
Supported by Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation among others, the campaign received more than 200,000 expressions of support.
In Torbay alone, 962 people expressed their support for the campaign.
Every year, a further 340,000 children in the UK try smoking for the first time.
In Torbay, there are estimated to be 703 children aged 11 to 15 who currently smoke.
Research shows specifically designed, targeted, packaging which can include shiny holograms, bright colours and eye-catching images, act to attract young people to certain brands and encourage the next generation of smokers to start.
Almost eight in 10 young people surveyed in the South West think selling cigarettes in 'plain packs', with no colourful branding or logos, and larger health warnings, would make it easier for people to smoke less or quit.
And nine in 10 across the South West thought plain packs were less attractive than branded packs, showing how plain packaging could make a significant difference in deterring young smokers.
Two-thirds of all smokers start before they are 18 and the vast majority while still teenagers .
Central Devon MP Mel Stride said: "I totally support the plain packaging campaign particularly as plain packaging is likely to play a strong part in reducing the number of children who try smoking.
"The majority of smokers start in their early years and this approach should have excellent long-term health benefits for many thousands of people."
Fiona Andrews, director of Smokefree South West, said: "The Plain Packs Protect campaign has really brought this issue to the fore in the UK and we're delighted that so many people across the country are supporting the drive to change how tobacco companies promote their products.
"The bold step that Australia has taken in toning down the attractiveness and appeal of tobacco packaging acts as a model we hope to see the UK embrace.
"Surely actively promoting products that kill one in two long-term smokers is outdated and should be challenged.
"We believe introducing standard plain packs could dramatically reduce the recruitment of yet another generation across the South West."