Westminster MPs are being sent examples of widely available cigarette packets to show how the tobacco industry markets its products to children today (Tuesday).
Cancer Research UK is taking the bold step of sending one of a variety of widely sold packs to each MP highlighting the slick designs and colourful packaging that children and young women find appealing.
Raising awareness of the tobacco industry’s sophisticated marketing techniques comes as the government considers the future of tobacco marketing.
The public consultation on whether to remove all branding from tobacco packaging and put cigarettes in standardised packs of the same size, shape and colours closed in August 2012.
Around 80,000 Cancer Research UK supporters responded to the consultation in favour of plain, standardised packaging.
Sarah Woolnough, Cancer Research UK’s executive director of policy and information, said: “Our figures show that over 150,000 children start smoking every year in the UK. They don’t start randomly. They are enticed, lured and marketed to by the tobacco industry. It’s important to remember that these are lethal products that will kill half of all long term smokers and are the cause of at least 14 different types of cancer.
“Glitzy designs make packs look like music speakers or perfume bottles and reduce the impact of the health warnings. One of the best ways we have found to effectively demonstrate this is to show people real packs of cigarettes.”
Eight in 10 smokers start by the age of 19. 157,000 11 to 15 year olds start smoking in the UK every year. Smoking causes one in four deaths from cancer, with 100,000 deaths caused by tobacco each year in the UK.
Australia became the first country to implement standardised packaging in December 2012. Cancer Research UK is urging the government to follow Australia’s lead by ‘setting the standard’ in reducing the impact of tobacco in Europe and around the world.
Sarah added: “We know that the majority of MPs and the public, especially those who have never smoked or haven’t smoked for a while, might not realise that cigarette packs now look like this. People are often shocked by the glamorous and innovative pack designs and extent of the targeting at young women in particular. Putting all cigarettes in plain standardised packs, of uniform size, shape and design will help silence the role that packaging plays in attracting children. Sending these packs is about showcasing the evidence for standardised packaging and the reality of tobacco industry tactics for enticing new smokers, especially young people and women. Standardising packs won’t stop everyone from smoking, but it will give millions of children one less reason to start.”
For more information about Cancer Research UK’s “Setting the Standard” campaign to introduce plain standardised tobacco packaging visit www.cruk.org/standard-packs
For media enquiries contact the press office on 020 3469 8300 or, out of hours, on 07050 264 059.
The packs were paid for by a generous personal donation from Kevin Craig. Kevin is managing director of the public affairs company PLMR. Kevin decided to personally support Cancer Research UK because he believes this is a critical point in trying to help legislators understand that the proposed changes to packaging will save lives. Kevin’s mother died of cancer in 2012 and he is a strong supporter of cancer research and care charities.
View the unscripted and unprompted response of children to cigarettes packs.