Supporting Small Business Saturday
Small businesses play an important part in our local economy, so I am delighted to announce our support for Small Business Saturday on December 7.
This first ever UK wide event is designed to recognise small businesses and give them a pre-Christmas boost on one of the busiest shopping days of the year. Introduced by the Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna and the Prime Minister, the Government initiative is being backed by the council in a bid to help increase footfall and raise awareness of the wide range of small businesses, retailers and not-for- profit organisations in the town centre and across the borough.
The council will be promoting the day through its social media channels.
The council places a high priority on helping retailers and stages a series of high profile town centre events to attract shoppers into the borough, underpinned by its successful Love St. Helens Town Centre branding.
Action needed now
So the government has announced an independent review of cigarette packaging.
On the face of it this sounds like something is finally being done to discourage young smokers. But while this latest review grinds forward, more and more of our young people will be tempted to take up a habit that will hit both their health and their wallet.
What is needed now is action – not another review. The uniform packaging of cigarettes is surely the way forward as we seek to make smoking less attractive to the younger generation.
As Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham says, the review sounds more like a delaying tactic than a serious attempt to protect our children from tobacco harm.
Earlier this year we became the first council in Merseyside to sign the Local Authority Declaration on Tobacco – a statement of intent that we will do everything in our power to cut smoking rates in the borough.
Young people in St Helens and across the North West said that they were attracted to cigarette packaging and that plain packs would make them more reluctant to start smoking.
In St Helens smoking costs the local economy an estimated £48 million a year – including £14.4 million from early deaths, £19 million in lost productivity and sickness absence, £9.5 million in NHS costs and £3 million in cleaning and smoking related fires.
Smokers in St Helens also spend around £52 million a year on tobacco products. It means a couple with a 20 a day habit can see up to £5,000 a year go up in smoke.
In Australia – so far the only country to have introduced unbranded packaging – early evidence suggests it has been an effective move. A study in the state of Victoria found that not only did it make smokers more likely to think about quitting, it also worked subconsciously – with smokers believing the cigarettes were of poorer quality.