MPs in the region are being urged to take a tougher stance on tobacco promotion as new estimates suggest that nearly 3,400 North-East children have started smoking in the last six months.

North-East tobacco control campaigners, Fresh, fear that an 19 children in the region a day have started smoking in the six months since the Government's consultation on plain packaging for tobacco closed, with no decision made by ministers.

Fresh, which is based in County Durham, is calling on MPs to pressure the Government into supporting legislation which will end glossy cigarette packs aimed at young people and protect future generations from tobacco promotion.

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Now the Smokefree Action Coalition, an alliance of more than 190 health organisations including Fresh, the Royal College of Physicians, Cancer Research UK, ASH and the British Heart Foundation, wants the Government to publish the results of its consultation and announce that it will go ahead with legislation.

Evidence shows standardised packs would be less attractive to children.

Ailsa Rutter, director of Fresh, said: "The evidence is clear that heavily branded, brightly coloured packs are attractive to children. Most smokers start as children.

"We are urging MPs in our region to tell the Government to commit now to legislation to put all tobacco products in standard packs."

Former smoker and mum, Terri McGrath, 45, from Newton Aycliffe in County Durham, said: "It's disgusting that young female smokers may be influenced by glamorous cigarette packaging. I am shocked that super slim cigarettes are marketed as being fashionable and am so thankful that my 18 year-old daughter and her friends don't smoke.

"But, I fear for those young people who are becoming addicted to these so called trendy products, which will inevitably damage their health.

"Something needs to be done to stop young people from being influenced by these glamorous cigarette packets."

More than 13,500 people and 129 organisations in the North East - including every local authority and primary care organisation - supported calls for standardised packaging.

But Imperial Tobacco spokesman Alex Parsons has described plain packaging as "a disproportionate step" which would create additional burdens for traders.

The tobacco industry has also voiced concerns that plain packaging would make it easier to sell counterfeit cigarettes.