Standardised tobacco packaging gets green light

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The government has announced its support for the introduction of standardised cigarette packets following a review of the public health case by Sir Cyril Chantler.

In a statement to the Commons on 3 April 2014, Public Health Minister Jane Ellison said she was "minded to proceed with introducing regulations to provide for standardised packaging".

She added she would publish the draft regulations and undertake a final short consultation in order to allow a further chance for people to submit their views, but expected the move to take place before May 2015.

"We want our children to grow up happy and healthy and free from the heavy burden of disease that tobacco brings," she emphasised.

Responding to the announcement for Labour, shadow health minister Luciana Berger asked: "Why have we had to wait so long?"

She criticised the number of different consultations and reviews that had already taken place, accusing the minister of "kicking the issue into the long grass" and "caving in to vested interests and standing up to the wrong people".

The minister defended the process as proceeding at "the pace which a sensible and robust policy approach dictates".

Many on the government backbenches were unhappy. Sir Gerald Howarth asserted "the logic of her argument is to ban tobacco altogether" and told MPs: "I do not believe that this is a Conservative measure. It is an example of the nanny state."

She was also challenged by the DUP's Iain Paisley Jr, whose constituency is home to a cigarette factory, who charged the government with telling his constituents that they are "not valued, that their jobs are over".

Mrs Ellison replied that "taking every possible effective measure to stop children smoking is the mark of a sensible state, not a nanny state" and gave assurance that the impact assessment will reflect the consequences for factory jobs.

From the Lib Dem benches, Mike Thornton stressed the importance of "helping them not start smoking in the first place".

The government found more support from Labour backbenchers, such as former shadow health minister Diane Abbott, who said medical professionals and health campaigners "will be very glad we are making progress"

Following the statement, Culture Secretary Maria Miller made a personal statement, apologising for failing to reduce claims for her mortgage when the interest fell and for her "attitude" to Parliamentary Standards Commission's inquiry.

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