THE vast majority of people in the North-East – 85 per cent – believe children should not be exposed to any tobacco marketing, according to a survey.

Eight in ten of those surveyed in the region think that tobacco marketing is harmful to children, and two-thirds (66 per cent) said that the colourful branding, striking logos and distinctive packet designs make cigarettes more appealing to children.

Cancer Research UK has released the survey results as the Government consults on whether to put all tobacco in packs of uniform size, shape and design, with large health warnings front and back.

The charity is championing the call to protect children from tobacco marketing through a hardhitting campaign called The Answer is Plain.

People across the North-East are being urged to sign the campaign petition for all branding to be removed from tobacco packaging at Cancer Research UK believes that plain, unbranded packaging is needed to reduce the appeal of tobacco products to children and give the region’s young people one less reason to start smoking.

Paul Wadsworth, Cancer Research UK’s spokesman for the North-East, said: “This is not about ‘the nanny state’. This is about us as a society saying that it is wrong for tobacco a product that kills half of all its long-term users – to be marketed to children as though it was a bag of sweets.”

Ailsa Rutter, director of Fresh Smoke Free North East, said: “It is wrong that something that contains 4,000 chemicals and kills one in two users should be gift wrapped in this way like sweets or breakfast cereals.”

The tobacco industry, which opposes plain packaging, stresses that tobacco is a legal product and argues that banning branding will encourage more people to buy cheaper smuggled cigarettes.

Breast cancer patient Laura Ashurst, 44, is urging people across the North-East to sign the petition.

As a mother of Megan, 14, and Jack, 11, Mrs Ashurst, who was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001, wants to do everything she can to protect children from the allure of tobacco packaging.

In 2010, Mrs Ashurst became an ambassador for Cancer Research UK for the Richmond constituency, in North Yorkshire.

She said: “My breast cancer isn’t smoking-related, but I have had chemotherapy alongside patients who are receiving treatment for lung cancer.

“When I was younger, I did occasionally smoke in social situations, as did lots of my friends, so I do know how addictive smoking can be and how cigarettes can be marketed to make smoking look attractive.”