WIRRAL Council has welcomed a review into standardising packaging for cigarettes after a report by an influential health practitioner said it will lead to a reduction in smoking.

The report by Sir Cyril Chantler, an expert on child health and Honorary Fellow of University College London, says that forcing tobacco companies to remove branding from their products is likely “over time, to contribute to a reduction in the prevalence of smoking”.

He said this would be especially true with young people taking up the habit.

Councillor Chris Meaden, Wirral’s cabinet member for health and wellbeing, said this would save money being spent on smoking-related illnesses.

She said: “This report is a positive step for the health sector and for local government, and if its recommendations are implemented, will help us achieve real, significant improvements in public health.

“The amount of money we spend on projects to deal with the fallout of smoking and smoking-related  illnesses is considerable, and could be better focused on other areas.”

Wirral’s director of public health, Fiona Johnstone, added: “These findings support our own assertion that standardized packaging will help save lives and reduce the number of young people who start smoking.

“These packets are designed with the sole intention of persuading people to take up the dangerous habit.”

The Chantler Review draws a link between the packaging of tobacco and its appeal as a product, and says that there is strong evidence that packaging makes it more likely that children will take up the habit.

Andrea Crossfield, chief executive of Tobacco Free Futures which led the campaign for standardised packaging in the north west said:  “We are delighted that Sir Cyril Chantler’s review provides a strong public health case for standardised tobacco packaging.

“This reinforces our work across the north west to highlight the need to protect young people and children from being targeted by the tobacco industry to replace the one in two smokers who die from their addiction to tobacco industry products.

"There is wide support in the North West with 64% of adults in favour of this measure, along with backing by Local Authorities, health and community organisations. Legislation would save thousands of young people in our region being enticed to smoke through glitzy, glamorous and attractive tobacco packaging.

"We are calling upon the Government to act now and protect young people and children from tobacco industry marketing, by implementing legislation as soon as possible."

MEP Paul Nuttall has expressed anger over the Government’s plan to force shops to sell cigarettes in plain packaging.

He said:“No one thinks it’s a good idea for teenagers to take up smoking but if the government believe that plain packaging is the answer they are wrong.

“This will open the flood gates for counterfeit cigarettes to flood the market and youngsters are particularly likely to go for cheap black market fags. It is a dangerous move.

‘It is another nanny state move by the Tories and what next, plain bottles for alcohol and brown bags for sweets?

“Experience has already apparently shown in Australia that plain packaging has resulted in the trade in illicit tobacco rising to record levels and cost AU$1billion in revenue.