Teenagers from the North have joined the campaign against smoking with a protest outside one of the world’s largest tobacco headquarters.
Members of the Gateshead Youth Assembly took part in a protest outside the London headquarters of British American Tobacco and say the Government should introduce plain packaging on cigarettes to stop their fellow young people being drawn in to the habit.
Among those protesting was Sarah Gascoigne, the assembly’s spokesman on health matters, who knows all too well the damage that smoking can do after her grandmother was diagnosed with smoking-related Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.
She said: “We find it disgusting that tobacco companies are allowed to design eye-catching cigarette packaging that can manipulate young people into starting smoking. The colours and patterns on the boxes catch your eye and, whether you realise it or not, they are made to grab our attention.
“Although many of us know the harm that smoking can cause, when you’re young you think you’re invincible, and smoking can be seen as a cool thing to do. But the reality is far worse - it limits your life.
“Every member of the Youth Assembly has been touched by the devastation that smoking can cause. It’s really sad, but we all know someone who has been affected by smoking and that’s why we feel so strongly about making our voice heard to protect others from getting hooked.”
Sarah and a contingent from Gateshead joined protestors outside British American Tobacco’s (BAT) headquarters on the day of its AGM earlier this month.
She is worried after figures showed that many people start smoking when they are still young.
Meanwhile the anti-smoking organisation Fresh has announced findings from YouGov which show most adults do not trust the tobacco industry and believe public health should be protected from the influence of multi-national tobacco corporations.
The independent 2014 Smokefree YouGov poll, commissioned by Action on Smoking and Health found, nearly half (43%) of North East adults think the Government’s activities to limit smoking are not enough.
Fresh says nearly 9,000 young people starting smoking every year in the North East to replace the 5,500 across the region who die every year from tobacco related diseases or those who have quit.
Ailsa Rutter, Director of Fresh, said: “Tobacco companies are probably amongst the least trusted companies on earth and it is no surprise after their shameful history over the past half century. They sell and profit from a lethal addiction which nearly always starts in childhood.
“Cigarette packs are one of the last remaining forms of promotion and advertising. Why else do tobacco companies make the packs so appealing, aiming them clearly as fashion accessories at young people? It’s fantastic to see local young people from Gateshead take a stand against the companies that manufacture a product that is our region’s biggest killer.