THREE-QUARTERS of North-East residents believe that tobacco companies should not be able to influence health policy and should declare what they spend on lobbying government, according to new figures.
The findings from YouGov - released ahead of World No Tobacco Day on Saturday, May 31- show most adults do not trust the tobacco industry and believe public health policies should be protected from the influence of multi-national tobacco corporations.
Fresh, the North-East tobacco control office, said the figures are "not surprising" after decades of the industry hiding the harms of smoking and trying to derail efforts to cut youth smoking.
The independent 2014 SmokefreeYouGov poll, commissioned by Action on Smoking and Health found 77 per cent of North-East adults support the idea that Government health policy should be protected from the influence of the tobacco industry.
Another 78 per cent agree or strongly agree that tobacco companies should be required to disclose the amount spent on lobbying politicians, front groups and promoting their products
Ailsa Rutter, director of Fresh, said: "Tobacco companies are probably the least trusted on earth and it is no surprise after their shameful history over the past half century. They sell and profit from an addiction which nearly always starts in childhood and that hits the poor hardest of all and they are still working day and night to influence politicians around the world.
"Nearly 9,000 North-East children start smoking each year to replace the 5,500 who die from tobacco related diseases or quit.”
In the UK, the Government is expected to announce a final short technical consultation on standardised packaging to remove the appeal of colourful cigarette packs, including packs trying to suggest a link between fashion and smoking.
Ailsa Rutter, added: “We’re urging Ministers now to commit to removing these enticing brands and protect our children.”
Simon Clark, director of the smokers' group Forest, said: "Tobacco companies, like any legitimate business, have a right to argue their case and support their consumers.
"The tobacco industry has a huge role to play helping to tackle illicit trade, for example, and it's the duty of government to engage with all stakeholders, not just the ideologically driven tobacco control industry.
"If tobacco companies are compelled to declare how much they spend lobbying government then anti-smoking groups must do the same. They should also declare how much of that money belongs to the taxpayer."
A spokesman for the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association said:
“The tobacco industry works to a very clear transparency charter as do those politicians and officials that engage with it backed up by a published register of interests and meetings, available for all to see.
"To suggest that it has any undue influence over government is nonsense. ASH undertakes the same survey every year. Indeed, the results this year show a marked improvement in those trusting the tobacco industry.
"ASH is a taxpayer funded lobby group. Rather than using this money to commission polling asking leading questions that proves little, it would be better spent working with the industry to tackle illicit tobacco trade and underage sales.”