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Children create anti-smoking artwork for new-look cigarette packets

Primary school children have created their own "plain packaging" for cigarette packs ahead of the official roll-out of standardised packets in 2017.

The youngsters devised their own front-of-pack messages encouraging England's seven million smokers to quit.

One child's artwork says: "Don't be a smoker - be a stopper."

The children are featured in Public Health England's (PHE) new campaign to highlight the damaging effect smoking has on the heart.

PHE said that every day 45 people die of cardiovascular disease such as heart attacks or strokes caused by smoking - more than 16,500 a year in England.

Standardised packaging will be mandatory from May 2017. Cigarettes will be sold in packs which feature a graphic picture and text health warnings.

"Smoking is the biggest cause of premature death in England, accounting for almost 78,000 deaths a year," said England's chief medical officer Professor Dame Sally Davies.

"For every death caused by smoking approximately 20 smokers suffer from a smoking-related illness .

"However, you can change this. Stopping smoking will have a dramatic positive impact on your health and the health of those around you, especially children, and is the single best health decision you can make this new year."

Professor Kevin Fenton, PHE's national director for health and wellbeing, added: "It is fantastic news that there are now twice as many ex-smokers in the country as there are smokers, but that still leaves seven million that we are urging to quit this new year.

"I hope the children's heartfelt pleas will resonate with smokers around the country to encourage them to take advantage of the free campaign tools and support available, and to make 2017 the year they quit for good."

Simon Clark, director of smokers' group Forest, said using children was "emotional blackmail".

He said: "Using children to make adults feel guilty about smoking is a new low for the public health industry. It's emotional blackmail and should be condemned by all decent people, not financed with taxpayers' money.

"Adults know the health risks of smoking. Most smoke because they enjoy it. Public health campaigners should respect that choice and stop bullying smokers to quit."

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