THOUSANDS of people across Wirral have joined a campaign calling for the introduction of plain, standardised tobacco packs.
In total 3,142 local residents signed up to the Plain Packs Protect campaign to demand the end of cigarette packaging aimed at young people.
The responses have been sent to Government to inform the consultation on plain, standardised tobacco packaging, which ended in August. The consultation results are expected early next year.
This mounting public support coincides with the introduction of standardised packaging in Australia.
Under the new law, which came into force on December 1, all tobacco packaging will be sold in drab, olive packs with new larger and more shocking picture health warnings.
The only branding will be the product name in a standard font and colour. The law also covers the cigarettes themselves – this will mean an end to slim fashion cigarettes which are promoted to young women.
Health experts have hailed it as the next step in helping to reduce young people taking up smoking.
Fiona Johnstone, Wirral's director of Public Health said: "The response from the public across Wirral has been excellent.
"Many of the people who have signed up don’t smoke and are not familiar with what packs look like but, once they see some of the packs that are currently on sale, they are shocked.
"They understand how the packs appeal to young people as the 'silent salesman'.
"The tobacco industry spends a lot of time and money making cigarettes attractive to young people.
"They know that they will then have many customers for life. The introduction of plain, standardised packaging would mean a victory for our children's health and a defeat for the tobacco industry."
Peer reviewed studies from around the world show that standardised packaging will reduce the attractiveness of smoking to young people, curb misleading messages that one cigarette is healthier than another and make picture health warnings more effective.
Bromborough mum Alison Theobald signed up to support the campaign in the summer.
She said: "I think anything that helps to deter youngsters from smoking has to be a good thing. Removing the branding takes away the street credibility that smoking has and will help to discourage young people from smoking."
Andrea Crossfield, director of campaign group Tobacco Free Futures said: "The introduction of plain, standardised packaging is a vital step in Australia to make tobacco less attractive to their children and young people and we would like to see this happen in the UK, where most smokers start as children.
"In the North West, more than four out of five of those who try smoking do so as children before they are aged 14.
"The new packs are designed to have the lowest appeal - especially to non-smokers and children, and clearly show the death and disease smoking causes.
"Since the launch of the plain packs consultation in April, more than 63,000 people from across the North West have signed up to support the introduction of plain, standardised cigarette packaging.
"This is the largest number of people to sign up of any region in the country, which is testament to how passionate people in the North West are about making smoking history for children."