Plain packaging consultation launched
The Department of Health has published a long-awaited consultation on introducing plain packaging for cigarettes in the UK.
Health campaigners have welcomed the move, but there have been warnings that the tobacco industry is gearing up for an ‘almighty fight’.
Launching the consultation this week, health secretary Andrew Lansley said the government had a responsibility to consider initiatives that would encourage smokers to quit and prevent young people taking up smoking.
Under the proposals all cigarette packaging would need to be in a standardised uniform colour and all text and brand names presented in a standard typeface. No logos, advertising or promotion would be permitted.
The government is also asking for views on whether standardised packaging would have any legal implications or would lead to an increase in smuggling or ‘cross-border shopping’.
Respondents are required to declare whether they have any links with tobacco companies.
A Department of Health-funded review of research concluded that plain packs increased ‘negative feelings about smoking’ and acted as a deterrent to young people taking up the habit.
A recent poll carried out for anti-smoking campaigners ASH also revealed 62 per cent of adults in England supported plain packaging, with 11 per cent voicing their opposition.
ASH chief executive Deborah Arnott said: ‘If we are to succeed in making smoking history for our children then plain packaging is the obvious next step now advertising promotion and sponsorship are banned and tobacco displays in shops are on the way out.’
John Middleton, vice president for policy at the Faculty of Public Health, said: ‘Non-branded packs save lives because it is less likely young people will start smoking.
‘People may be sceptical about how much difference plain packs will really make. However, there is ample evidence that they are effective.’
It is widely expected that the tobacco industry will challenge any move to introduce plain packs, as has been the case in Australia.
A spokesperson for Imperial Tobacco said: ‘Our trademarks are protected by law and we have a fundamental right to differentiate our brands from those of our competitors.’
A spokesperson for British American Tobacco said: ‘We believe that tobacco products are only suitable for adult consumers and we do not want children to smoke. However, we think plain packaging will actually make cigarettes easier for children to buy.’
The tobacco industry also claims plain packaging leads to an increase in smuggling and counterfeiting.
Shadow public health minister Diane Abbott said there would be an ‘almighty fight’ with tobacco firms now the consultation had launched.
She added: ‘For every step we take, the tobacco industry takes a new approach.’