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Public back an end to tobacco marketing to children

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by Cancer Research UK | News

14 May 2012

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The vast majority (84 per cent) of UK adults believe that children should not be exposed to any tobacco marketing according to new data* published by Cancer Research UK today (Monday).

Nearly four out of five (79 per cent) of the 4,099 people interviewed believe that tobacco marketing is harmful to children.

And 69 per cent agree that the stylish, colourful branding, striking logos and distinctive packet design make cigarettes more appealing to children.

These results are released as the government consults on whether to put all tobacco in packs of uniform size, shape and design, with large health warnings front and back.

When asked about how brand aware children are, around a quarter (24 per cent) of parents and grandparents of children under the age of 18 said that they thought it was important for their oldest child or grandchild to have specific branded goods**. Although 51 per cent said their oldest child or grandchild didn’t ask for any branded goods, 84 per cent of those that did, said this happened when the child or grandchild was 15 or younger.

Cancer Research UK’s shocking film illustrates the response that brands and tobacco packaging can elicit from children. Cancer Research UK research also shows that boys and girls find different brands and packs appealing with children responding positively to the brightly coloured and slickly designed packs.

Jan Sheward, 67 – ex-smoker and breast cancer survivor – lost her husband Eric, a heavy smoker, to oesophageal cancer. Jan started smoking in secret when she was 14 and became a ‘proper’ smoker by the age of 16. She used to smoke between 15-20 cigarettes a day and sometimes more.

Jan said: “I think cigarette branding has a huge influence on young people. I know firsthand as I was very brand aware as a young teen. I smoked Benson and Hedges but when I could afford to, I bought a more glamorous brand. It came in a long maroon packet called Dunhill which made me feel extremely glamorous and sophisticated.

“In the 60s I seemed to survive on a diet of coffee and cigarettes to keep my weight down. In those days we all smoked and I remember the TV and cinema advertising included sexy, intimate pictures of couples in love smoking together.

“After seeing what smoking can do to a person I support any measure that makes cigarettes less appealing to children. My children and grandchildren lost their father and grandfather to smoking and I believe it’s vitally important we give children one less reason to start smoking.”

Sarah Woolnough, Cancer Research UK’s director of policy, said: “The British people clearly supports action to get rid of one of the last ways the tobacco industry can market its products. Many parents know their children are very attached to certain brands and cleverly designed packaging plays a significant role in maintaining that attraction. But when we are talking about tobacco then it’s time to change the law. And our survey shows the vast majority of people support our stance on this.

“We have a unique opportunity to protect children from the marketing of this deadly product. This is not about ‘the nanny state’ or ‘corporate freedoms’. This is about us as a society saying that it is wrong for tobacco – a product that kills half of all its long term users – to be marketed to children as though it were a bag of sweets.”

The image below highlights some key facts on the impact of tobacco. Click on the image to download it as a PDF. 


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