Campaign's plain facts about tobacco dangers
THE images were graphic and they got the anti- smoking mess- age across to pupils at Penyrheol Compreh- ensive School.
On a table in front of the Gorseinon youngsters were two pigs' lungs, one a healthy red, the other a distinctly unhealthy black.
The latter had been ''doctored'' to replicate its condition as if it belonged to a lifelong 20-a-day smoker.
Alongside them was a jar of tar, the amount the aforementioned smoker would carry around with him or her.
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The shock tactics were employed by Ash Wales on a roadshow tour of schools ahead of next Tuesday's deadline in the health charity's latest campaign.
It is calling for the plain packaging of tobacco to help protect children from this form of marketing. A UK Government consultation on the issue ends then and officials are trying to raise as much awareness as possible about it in Wales, as well as encouraging people to sign an online petition.
So they descended on Penyrheol comprehensive to speak to teenagers about the dangers of smoking and how the tobacco companies specifically targeted their products at them through packaging.
Most of the youngsters took the message on board.
Jordan McKavett, aged 14, was one. "I haven't smoked, but I can now advise my friends not to smoke because of the damage it does," she says. "I was aware of some of the damage before, but not all of it."
The pigs' lungs — the same size as human ones — and the tar-filled jar had an impact on her.
"They don't look very nice," she says. "How much tar a smoker has in his lungs shocked me.I was never into smoking, but I think the campaign is a good idea because a lot of kids are attracted by shiny things and if the packets were more plain they would not be as attractive to smokers."
Megan Ridgeway, aged 13, says she didn't smoke and that the presentation would reinforce that decision in the future. She was struck by the images of the lungs.
"What I will take away from this is that you can get lung cancer and lots of people die from it," she says. "I didn't know you could get cancer from it."
Megan is now supporting the campaign: "Advertisers are trying to make you buy cigarettes because the packets are pretty.
"Sometimes we talk about smoking because we know people who do. This gets the message across more than ever."
Morgan Jonah, aged 13, praised Ash Wales officials for highlighting the dangers of smoking.
"They were really good in telling us," she says. "I never have smoked and never will. I was just reassured today abut my feelings on smoking.
"I think the campaign will be really effective because people who go for bright colours and eye catching images will no longer have the option.
"I never smoke because you can get lung cancer and your lungs will be full of tar."
Ash Wales campaigns manager Felicity Walters says some of the pupils had expressed anger at the tactics used by tobacco companies in glamourising cigarette packets.
"We aim to raise awareness of the dangers and encourage them not to start smoking or stop smoking," she says. "We want plain standardised packaging which would allow up to 90 per cent more room for health warnings."
Gower MP Martin Caton is backing the campaign and has signed the Early Day Motion on plain packaging at Westminster.
ASH Wales believes stopping tobacco companies from using eye-catching packaging will help prevent more children from becoming addicted.
Plain packaging will look less attractive, increase the effectiveness of health warnings, prevent the use of misleading and deceptive colours to create false beliefs of different strength and quality and remove the positive association with cigarettes.
Ash Wales says evidence suggests the impact of health warnings were lost on current branded packs but would become bigger and more eye-catching against a plain background.
Chief executive Elen de Lacy said: "If the tobacco companies didn't think attractive packaging had any influence, why do they spend millions of pounds on this sort of marketing every year?
"There is credible evidence to suggest young people are influenced by pretty packets."
Log on to www.plainpacksprotect. co.uk/truth.aspx