Call for Commons free vote on plain cigarette packaging by Tower Hamlets Council

PUBLISHED: 18:28 07 August 2013 | UPDATED: 18:28 07 August 2013

Local authority leaders in London’s East End which has one of Britain’s worst rates of cancer and heart disease today called for Parliament to have a free vote on plain packaging for cigarettes.

They are backing campaigns for an open vote following a government decision against bringing in legislation.

Disappointment in the government decision has been voiced by Tower Hamlets Council which runs programmes to stop youngsters smoking, targeted at illegal sales to children and peer education in schools, as well as programmes to wean adults off tobacco.

“We had welcomed the prospect of bringing in plain packaging,” the council’s Cabinet member for public health, Abdul Asad, said. “The failure to introduce legislation is disappointing and unhelpful in our priority to drive down smoking rates.”

Tower Hamlets has among the highest levels of smoking in the country, a major reason why levels of cancer and heart disease are more common than elsewhere, the authority points out.

Tower Hamlets Mayor Lutfur Rahman said: “We need this commitment to be matched nationally to support what we’re doing locally—we put every effort into stopping children smoking and into helping others to stop.”

Two-out-of-three smokers in the East End start as teenagers, council research has found. It tallies with national statistics showing 200,000 youngsters every year start smoking before they reach 16.

The evidence for plain packaging was set out in the Department of Health’s own consultation, the council points out, which found it was less attractive to young people and improved the effectiveness of health warnings.

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