Public health professionals in North Yorkshire are encouraging people to have their say on the Government’s consultation on plain packaging for tobacco products.
The Department of Health is seeking feedback on whether there might be public health benefits of “standardised” or plain tobacco packaging, including reducing the number of children who take up smoking.
Current figures show that two-thirds of smokers take it up before the age of 18.
Putting tobacco products in plain packaging is being considered because, the department says, tobacco packs are now the major promotional tool for the tobacco industry.
It also said there is good evidence that plain, standardised packs are less attractive, particularly to young people; make the health warnings stand out more and reduce the ability of packaging to mislead consumers about the harms of smoking.
In North Yorkshire; the estimated smoking population is 97,600 (16 per cent) and each year it is estimated that smoking costs the county around £152.3 million.
In 2011 there were 1044 smoking-related deaths.
Katie Needham, public health consultant at NHS North Yorkshire and York, said: “We are encouraging people to have their say on this important consultation.
“There is strong evidence that plain packaging on tobacco products can reduce smoking in under 18s which means we can potentially stop people getting addicted to smoking in the first place.
“Tobacco use remains one of the most significant challenges to public health across the UK.
“It is the primary cause of preventable and premature death, accounting each year for over 100,000 deaths across the country.
“The Department of Health is considering additional action to reduce tobacco use and this consultation on introducing plain packaging is part of that.
“Reducing tobacco use will benefit not only NHS finances, but also the wider local and national economy and I urge people to give their views on this matter.”
The consultation runs until July 10.
Responses are invited from any interested person, business or organisation. The consultation documents can be found at: http://consultations.dh.gov.uk
Statistics show treating smoking-related illness costs the NHS billions of pounds each year.
However, the Department of Health said the wider economic costs of tobacco use are much greater than just costs to the NHS.
They include losses in productivity from smoking breaks and ill-health absences, the cost of cleaning up cigarette butts, the cost of smoking-related house fires and the loss in economic output from people who die from diseases related to smoking or exposure to second-hand smoke.