Group in call over cigarette packs
Northern Ireland risks falling behind the rest of the UK on plain tobacco packaging if a new law is not introduced urgently, a campaign group has said.
It would require the removal of the attractive promotional aspects of containers and order that all packs carry strong health messages.
Gerry McElwee, head of cancer prevention for the Cancer Focus Northern Ireland charity, said: "The campaign for standardised packaging has gained massive public support because it will protect future generations from being seduced by tobacco industry marketing and will encourage smoking cessation in adults. It would be a catastrophe if it fell at this late stage.
"It is vitally important that Northern Ireland is not left behind the rest of the UK on this crucial piece of legislation."
A piece of Assembly business known as a legislative consent motion is needed to include Northern Ireland in a Bill being considered in the House of Lords allowing Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to introduce standardised packaging regulations.
Mr McElwee added: "We believe that all regions of the UK should benefit from comprehensive controls on tobacco marketing, which are designed to provide more effective safeguards for children and young people, from the devastating effects of smoking."
Around 340,000 smokers are aged over 16 in Northern Ireland; most started while still children and a key purpose of standardised packaging is to make it more difficult to market smoking to children and young people.
Cancer Focus said the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister needed adopt the motion urgently if it to be introduced in time for the Westminster deadline.