THOUSANDS of East Lancashire residents have called for changes to cigarette packaging.

More than 2,500 people in the area have backed calls for a new law to make packets of all tobacco products plain, according to a survey by Cancer Research.

A similar law came into place in Australia on Saturday, and the British government is the first in Europe to commit to a public consultation on this issue, with a report expected early next year.

In Australia, all tobacco must now be sold in drab, olive packs with new larger and more shocking picture health warnings.

One mum from Burnley who has thrown her weight behind the Plain Packs Protect campaign, said British brands should follow the Australian.

Emma Gardner said some ‘glitzy’ packaging was misleading and made certain brands appear healthier than others.

She said: “The less attractive they can make cigarette packets look to young people then so much the better. It looks like these packs are designed to suggest that it’s okay to smoke aged 14.”

Karen Thompson, joint director of public health for NHS East Lancashire, said: “The response from the public across East Lancashire has been excellent.

“Many of the people who have signed up don’t smoke and are not familiar with what packs look like but, once they see some of the packs that are currently on sale, they are shocked.

“They understand how the packs appeal to young people as the ‘silent salesman’.”

But the smokers’ lobby group, Forest, which runs the Hands Off Our Packs campaign, believes plain packaging is an attempt to ‘denormalise’ a legal product and ‘stigmatise’ consumers.

An estimated 500,000 people have registered their opposition to the introduction of plain packaging in the UK.

Director Simon Clark said: “The decision in Australia won't make any difference to our campaign.

“We support all reasonable attempts to discourage children from smoking, but putting cigarettes in plain packs is pointless.”