More than 2,000 children have started smoking in Northern Ireland while health officials dither over introducing plain tobacco packaging, it has been claimed.
According to NI Chest Heart & Stroke, an estimated 12 children every day, 86 each week or 372 children every month, have taken up the deadly habit since the consultation ended six months ago.
It has called on the Government to publish the findings of the consultation and introduce plain packaging as soon as possible.
Chief executive of the charity, Andrew Dougal, said: “We cannot work out why the Government is delaying this measure, since it has been proven that branded and colourful packaging contributes to encouraging children to take up smoking.”
A spokeswoman from the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety said Minister Edwin Poots will only make a decision as to whether plain packaging should be considered for introduction in Northern Ireland after he has considered the consultation summary report and a separate analysis of local responses.