Numbers game

I note that your article (“20,000 Scots children start smoking each year”, 29 August) cites figures “released” by Cancer Research UK.

Apart from finding them difficult to believe, I’d be interested in how they were obtained. The most relevant point would be 
the total number of children questioned (20,000+?) – or is this yet more plucked-from-the-air “statistics”?

It would also be reassuring to know that Cancer Research UK’s senior Scottish public affairs manager Vicky Crichton’s definitive claim that children are lured into smoking, “tempted by glitzy, slickly designed packs”, is based on the same 20,000 being asked the obvious question.

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I’ve never understood campaigners’ refusal to provide evidence for such an unlikely claim – most children get their first cigarette from a pal – especially when Cancer Research UK itself discovered from a group of 15-year-olds that they hardly noticed packaging and didn’t recognise cigarette packets shown to them.

Given that stores are now hiding cigarettes behind blank screens, it’s difficult to see any point in pursuing plain packaging.

I fully support all moves to prevent children from taking up this dangerous habit, but I seriously object to the near hysteria behind these false claims.

Robert Dow

Ormiston Road