NI smoking levels 'higher than GB'

Published Monday, 03 February 2014
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Levels of smoking in Northern Ireland are higher than in the rest of the UK, the Cancer Focus charity has revealed.

NI smoking levels 'higher than GB'
Campaigners are calling for cigarettes to be sold in plain packaging. (© Getty)

They are calling on MLAs to make sure standardised packaging regulations are enforced in shops.

An independent review by the Westminster government will examine whether there are sufficient grounds to proceed, including public health benefits.

It could see uniform packaging designs being adopted in England. Other European countries adopted the measure.

There were legal issues and concerns about giving Westminster a blank cheque to legislate on behalf of Northern Ireland but a new motion was devised which would allow Stormont to opt into UK laws if they were agreeable.

And on Monday, MLAs voted that the Executive should accept the legislation if it is introduced by the British government.

DUP Health Minister Edwin Poots told the assembly he had consulted on the issue, and said there was widespread support for it.

"Of the detailed responses provided by the individuals, or businesses in Northern Ireland, members may wish to note that 75% indicated that they support the introduction of standardised packaging," he said.

"Branding on cigarette packs currently provides one of the last opportunities for tobacco companies to promote their products. Research shows that branded packs increase the appeal of tobacco products, reduce the impact of health warnings and influence perceptions of product harm."

Gerry McIlwee, from Cancer Focus, told UTV local politicians need to help people beat their nicotine addiction.

"This is good news, our politicians have agreed that we can have the legislative framework that England, Scotland, Wales and the Republic will have," he said.

"We will get legislation to protect our kids from the marketing of tobacco, to kids who are very very young who are starting smoking at the ages of eight and nine and certainly up through their teens.

"This will protect them and it will along with other measures eventually lead to a big improvement in the health of our population."

Northern Ireland has already put in place a policy that forces retailers to cover up their tobacco displays. It has already been adopted by large stores and will continue to be rolled out over the next two years.

© UTV News
Comments Comments
Phil in Belfast wrote (360 days ago):
Plain packaging will do nothing. Maybe stop selling what is essentially a drug, in sweet shops might help.
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