As Yorkshire pupils get ready for the start of the new school year, Cancer Research UK is releasing worrying statistics which show that 51 children start smoking every day in the Yorkshire and The Humber region.
The charity is releasing the figures, which relate to children aged 11-15, as part of its Setting the Standard campaign to highlight the ongoing scale of the tobacco problem and underline the importance of sustained action to discourage young people from starting to smoke.
The start of the new term serves as a timely reminder to the government to commit to plain, standardised packaging of tobacco. Research shows that children find standard packs less appealing and are less likely to be misled by the sophisticated marketing techniques designed to make smoking attractive to youngsters.
Since half of all long-term smokers will die of a smoking-related illness, these young people are at risk of being drawn into a life threatening addiction. Starting to smoke at a young age also carries additional risks of lung damage. Every year, around 4,100 people in Yorkshire and The Humber are diagnosed with lung cancer and 3,400 people die from the disease.
Nicki Embleton, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for Yorkshire, said: “The excitement of starting a new term is in stark contrast to the reality of the number of children who will start smoking every day. In Yorkshire and The Humber alone, this is 18,683 children every year.
“With many 11-year-olds starting secondary school for the first time next week, it’s imperative that we try to help our local youngsters by ‘setting the standard’ and protecting them from tobacco marketing. That’s why we are renewing our appeal to the government for cigarettes to be sold in plain, standard packs rather than in the glitzy branding that make cigarettes more alluring to young people.”
Eight out of ten adult smokers start by the age of 19 and around 27 per cent of all under 16s have tried smoking at least once, which is the equivalent of one million children across the UK. Standard packs have already been introduced in Australia, but here in the UK the Government is delaying its decision to bring in a new law for standard packs to protect British children.
Alison Cox, Cancer Research UK’s Tobacco Control Lead, said: “The Government’s delay to bring in standard cigarette packs will cost lives. Doing nothing is not an option when 567 children take up smoking every day in the UK. There is no doubt that urgent action is required to stop branded cigarette packaging and reduce the number of children who start to smoke.
“Replacing slick, brightly coloured packs that appeal to children with standard packs displaying prominent health warnings, is a vital part of our efforts to help protect the health of our youngsters. Reducing the appeal of cigarettes with plain, standardised packs won’t stop everyone from smoking, but it will give millions of kids one less reason to start.
“That’s why we are calling on all parents and those concerned with the health of our future generation to support the ‘Setting the Standard’ campaign today.”
Cancer Research UK is urging local people to support ‘Setting the Standard’ by visiting www.cruk.org/standard-packs to take two minutes to email the Prime Minister to urge him to act, or join the debate on twitter using #packetracket.