Tuesday, September 12, 2017
Plain packaging and illegal cigarette sales
I attended a meeting of Gateshead's Health Scrutiny Committee this afternoon. One of the main presentations was about smoking in the borough. Figures showed that 17.9% of adults in Gateshead smoke, a fall from the previous year when 18.3% smoked. It's a move in the right direction but it still leaves Gateshead with one of the highest smoking rates in the country.
The decision to impose plain packaging on cigarettes appears to have had a positive impact. There are now fewer varieties and the visual appeal is greatly reduced. Nevertheless, there are still too many illegal cigarettes coming into the country in their bright, attractively designed boxes. Some of these boxes, which had been seized by Trading Standards, were shown to the meeting. Also considered were the figures showing a significant drop in the number of admissions to hospital for illnesses caused by secondary smoking after the ban on smoking in public places was brought in.
In a sense, the easier actions have been carried out, such as plain packaging, the ban in public places, higher taxes and so on. Reducing the 17.9% rate to a minimal level of 5% is going to be a much bigger challenge. The main focus needs to be on children and young people. The smoking industry kills off lots of its customers so constantly needs to replace them. Quite how we stop young people being attracted into taking up smoking is the big challenge for which no one yet has any real solutions.