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Tobacco ads 'target young children'
Tobacco companies have targeted children by using "colourful and slick" cigarette packaging, a charity has alleged.
Video footage released by Cancer Research UK shows children as young as six years old discussing what attracts them to cigarette packets, with one explaining: "It makes you feel like you're in a wonderland of happiness."
A new report by the charity claims tobacco companies have identified young people and women as target groups for packaging design purposes.
Other reactions by the group of six to 11-year-old children, filmed to launch the charity's The answer is plain campaign, were "The pictures actually look quite nice. Ice cubes and mint;" "It reminds me of a Ferrari;" "Is that the royal sign?" and "Yeah. Pink, Pink, Pink."
The charity said the children were shown cereal boxes and asked for their responses before being shown cigarette boxes and again asked for their "unprompted and unscripted" thoughts. It has launched a petition calling for all branding on tobacco packaging to be removed.
Cancer Research's UK director of tobacco control, Jean King, said: "This footage provides us with a chilling insight into how powerful branding and marketing can be. Children are drawn to the colourful and slick designs without having a full understanding of how deadly the product is inside the pack."
The report reviews tobacco industry documents from over the last half-century, with several internal documents describing how packaging had been developed to appeal to new smokers, notably teenagers, through its size, colour and design, the charity said.
It claims that some cigarette brands are packaged to appeal specifically to women or men, with those targeting women often designed to be long and slender and using pale or pastel colours "indicating femininity, style, sophistication and attractiveness".
Eight focus groups for the charity of around 50 15-year-olds showed clear differences between boys and girls when asked to pick their favourite packs. Girls liked the female-oriented Silk Cut and Vogue Superslims which "suggested femininity and pleasure, such as perfume, make-up and chocolate", the charity said, while boys preferred the Marlboro Bright Leaf, Lambert & Butler and Benson & Hedges slide packs which "suggested maturity, popularity and confidence".
The report coincides with a Department of Health public consultation on the future of tobacco packaging.