United Kingdom - halve the number of smokers by end of decade..

February 2, 2010 - Health Secretary Andy Burnham is pledging to help half of Britain's smokers quit by 2020. The new strategy draws upon the "Smoking Kills" warning of 1998. Since then around two million people have quite smoking in the UK. Burnham wants to reduce the number of British smokers from 21 per cent to ten per cent. The plan includes cracking down on cheap illicit cigarettes and preventing 200 million cigarettes entering the UK illegally every year. Other potential policies include plain packing for cigarette packets, banning vending machines, and making homes and cars smoke free zones. An extension to the public smoking ban could be implemented too, meaning people will not be able to light up at entrances and walkways of public places.

The government's Business Secretary Lord Mandelson and Health Secretary Andy Burnham were suppose to meet to discuss Mandelson's reservations about plain packaging.

At the moment, 21 percent of the population smoke and ministers want to reduce that figure to 10 percent by 2020, with a particular focus on young people. "We've come so far and now we'll go even further -- to push forward and save even more lives," said Health Secretary Andy Burnham. "One day, in the not too distant future, we'll look back and find it hard to remember why anyone ever smoked in the first place."

The number of people lighting up in Britain has fallen by a quarter in the past decade as a result of various policies including a ban on advertising, putting grisly pictures on packets and raising the age of sale for tobacco to 18. In 2007, the government joined several others throughout the world in introducing a ban on smoking in virtually all enclosed public places and workplaces. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in Britain, claiming up to 80,000 lives a year. It is blamed for 1.4million hospital admissions a year and costs the NHS £2.7billion.
Despite numerous anti- smoking drives, some eight million Britons smoke and around 200,000 young people take up the habit each year.

Secretary Burnham says about his proposals: 'I make no apology when it comes to protecting children and giving them the best start in life.' Professor Terence Stephenson, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: ‘We are pleased that children are a priority in this new strategy. ‘Second-hand smoke has been found to be strongly linked to chest infections in children, asthma, ear problems and cot death.’

Burnham: "Now that we've banned advertising and will soon see an end to attractive displays in shops, the only remaining method of advertising tobacco is the packaging," Burnham said. "So we will carefully consider whether there is evidence for making tobacco companies use plain packets." Australian study - Plainer cigarette packages, perceived as boring or unattractive, would make smoking much less appealing to teens..

Tory MP Philip Davies said: ‘Given that people are well aware of the dangers of smoking, the Government should let people decide for themselves what they want to do.'

British American Tobacco and Imperial Tobacco, warned that the illicit cigarette trade would be boosted by proposals to remove branding from cigarette packets. Imperial Tobacco called the proposal a "counterfeiter's charter" while BAT said it would play "right into the hands of the very criminals they seek to clamp down on." BAT spokesman, "The outcome is that cigarettes will become more accessible to young people and the sections of society that these regulations seek to protect."

Reference: Branding ban on cigarette packs?, Reporting by Avril Ormsby, Michael Holden and Kate Kelland; Editing by Steve Addison, Reuters, 2/1/2010; BATS and Imperial Tobacco warn plain cigarette packs a "counterfeiter's charter" by Jonathan Sibun, Telegraph.co.uk, 2/2/2010; Government's anti-cigarette drive to stop you smoking at the wheel and at home by Daily Mail Reporter, Mail online, 2/1/2010; Government plans to halve British smokers by 2020, ITN, 1/29/2010.

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