PLANS unveiled today to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes have been welcomed on Wearside.
A public consultation has been launched by the Health Secretary Andrew Lansley as to whether colourful commercial packaging will be outlawed.
The news comes as anti-smoking group Fresh announced that it has found support in the North East for the changes to be implemented.
They say that 66 per cent of adults would support plain packaging, with just 10 per cent of those asked opposing it.
Former smoker Lorna Hardy, 29, of Fulwell, said she thinks plain packs would put youngsters off taking up the habit. The average age in the North East for taking up smoking is 15, although some are believed to take their first puff at nine.
Lorna said: “I tried smoking for the first time when I was about 14 years old. Smoking was seen as quite a cool thing to do and was definitely a way of fitting in with friends.
“I can remember everyone smoking a particular brand of cigarettes. They were really popular and came in shiny, appealing packaging.
“As a teenager you’re always attracted to buy things just because of the way they look and colourful cigarette brands are much more appealing when you’re young because they look trendy.
“Before I quit smoking, I was smoking menthol cigarettes which came in a nice, green box.
“The way that menthol cigarettes are packaged gives the impression that they’re better for you than normal cigarettes, which is totally untrue.
“Quitting smoking has been my biggest achievement so far.
“I feel a lot healthier and have been able to save so much money since I quit, which I would’ve just spent on buying cigarettes.
“I would support anything that discourages young people from starting to smoke and think that introducing plain packet tobacco is a good idea.”
Ailsa Rutter, director of Fresh, welcomed the news consultation into the issue had began, saying: “This is another vital measure to take in our journey to help make smoking history for children.
“Smoking is an addiction that starts in childhood and it is not surprising when you see the number of colourful, attractive tobacco products being offered on the shelves – with packaging to look like make up and MP3 players.
“Evidence shows young people are more likely to be attracted to glitzy, colourful tobacco packaging.
“There are also glamorous ‘fashion brands’ and ‘superslims’ available, popular with young female celebrities, which are particularly aimed at young women, exploiting beliefs around smoking, fashion and staying slim.”
Some retailers however, have vowed to fight against the plans. James Lowman, chief executive of the Association of Convenience Stores, said: “This would create further regulatory burdens on thousands of businesses.”
THE number of women battling lung cancer is continuing to climb in the North East, according to figures.
Cancer Research UK says about 1,200 women in the region are diagnosed each year.
The rates have rocketed in the area to 59 cases in every 100,000 women, up from 43 in the same number from the mid 1980s.
However, rates in men have been falling fast, despite there being about 1,400 cases each year in the North East.
Although the number of people smoking has fallen hugely – about 20 per cent of women in the UK smoke – charity chiefs say driving down the number of people smoking must be a priority for the Government.
Last week saw big shops and supermarkets having to remove tobacco from sight, with smaller outlets being made to follow suit in 2015.
Paul Wadsworth, North East spokesman for Cancer Research UK, said: “Lung cancer continues to claim far too many lives.
“It’s important that anyone with a cough lasting for three weeks or a worsening or a change in a long-standing cough get this checked out.”