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Tyneside shopkeeper and trading standards support calls for tobacco plain packaging

A Tyneside newsagent is supporting calls for tobacco products to be sold in plain, standardised packaging to help protect children from taking up smoking.

Retailer John McClurey, who has been an independent newsagent in Newcastle for 30 years, said: “I think that the introduction of plain, standardised packaging of tobacco products will reduce the appeal of eye-catching tobacco brands and help suppress the temptation for children to start smoking.

“Currently if a child sees a packet of cigarettes behind a shop counter or in someone’s hand, they see bright innocent colours, glamorous designs and distinctive holograms – all of which appeal to children to make them think that smoking is a normal or cool thing to do.

“Plain, standardised tobacco packaging on the other hand will just appear as a packet of cigarettes. It will reduce the novelty value and remove the status symbol of certain brands. It is obvious that the tobacco industry is using distinctive products to appeal to young people who can replace those smokers who die from smoking-related diseases.”

FRESH, along with the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK (CRUK), ASH and many others, is part of the Plain Packs Protect campaign which is backing proposals for plain, standardised packaging of tobacco products. The UK Government is currently consulting (until July 10, 2012) on whether this would make tobacco less attractive to young people and increase levels of awareness around the damage to health, caused by smoking. Nearly 80,000 people in the country have pledged support to this new proposed measure to date.

John added: “As a retailer, I know that introducing plain, standardised tobacco packs into my shop will be very straight forward to implement and will have no impact on my existing customers or trade.

“There are already very low profit margins on a packet of cigarettes compared to other products within a store. If a customer decides that today is the day they will quit smoking and, instead of paying nearly £6 for 20 cigarettes, opts to buy a packet of chewing gum for 49p – it’ll mean I’ll make 1p less profit and have a customer with £5.50 spare to spend on other products.”

North East supporters of this measure already include MPs, local authorities and medical professionals. As well as Mr McClurey, the North East Trading Standards Association (NETSA) has also joined the fight to help protect children from smoking and is submitting a response in support.

Richard Ferry from NETSA said: “Despite exaggerated claims by the tobacco companies, there is no evidence that plain, standardised packaging would result in a rise in illegal tobacco as packs will still carry security devices which allow ourselves and HMRC to tell real cigarettes from fakes. The new packaging would be no easier to counterfeit than the brands currently available on shop shelves. Counterfeiters have a long track record of turning out fakes of popular products, from DVDs to hair straighteners, within weeks of a new product being launched.

“Much of the illegal tobacco now being seized in the North East are brands made in the East, but not sold legally in the UK. The criminals supplying these make no attempt to pass them off as legal tobacco and they are easy to spot.

“Tobacco is the only product on our shelves that kills half of its long term users when it is used as the manufacturers intend. It is a lethal product sold in packaging that disguises the harm it causes. Given the impact of tobacco on health and wellbeing in the North East, measures to help prevent youth uptake of tobacco and support existing smokers through standardised packaging of all tobacco should be adopted as soon as possible.”

Ailsa Rutter, director of FRESH, said: “The evidence backing why we need plain, standardised packaging is clear. More children and young people would see cigarette packs as unattractive and not be lured into smoking, with the lifetime of ill health and premature death which come with it.

“No other product than tobacco kills one in two long term users when it is used exactly as the manufacturers intend.”

If you would like to support the Plain Packs Protect campaign before it ends on July 10, 2012, sign up today at

See the reaction of young children to this issue at

You can also follow FRESH on facebook and Twitter at FreshSmokeFree.