Cigarette packet branding to face consultation

Cigarettes on display The government wants smokers to give up their habit

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The government is considering plans to strip all branding from cigarette packs sold in England in a bid to make smoking appear less attractive.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley told the Times the government did not work with tobacco companies as it wanted them to have "no business" in the UK.

He said 5% of 11 to 15-year-olds were regular smokers and the habit led to nearly 100,000 deaths in the UK yearly.

The government is to launch its consultation on the issue on Monday.

Vending machine ban

In a statement, Mr Lansley said: "Smoking remains one of the most significant challenges to public health.

"Each year it accounts for over 100,000 deaths in the UK and one in two long-term smokers will die prematurely from a smoking disease.

"That is why the health ministers across the UK have a responsibility to look closely at initiatives that might encourage smokers to quit and stop young people taking up smoking in the first place.

"Through the forthcoming consultation we want to hear as many views as possible about whether tobacco packing should remain unchanged, plain packaging should be adopted or a different option should be considered."

A ban on tobacco displays in large shops started earlier this month, and smaller shops will have to follow suit by 2015.

The move comes after bans on vending machine sales, increasing the age at which a person can legally buy cigarettes and the ban on smoking in public places.

'Attractive' packaging

Australia is currently the only country which has so far agreed to plain packaging.

Its ban starts at the end of this year, although it is subject to a legal challenge by manufacturers.

Start Quote

There is no reliable evidence plain packaging will reduce rates of youth smoking”

End Quote Jane Chisholm-Caunt Tobacco Manufacturers Association

Packets will be a dark olive green, after the public was asked what the least attractive colour was.

Research published in Australia has suggested that cigarette packets have increasingly become an important marketing tool as restrictions on advertising and sponsorship have been brought in.

Mr Lansley told the Times he was open-minded, but that he believed attractive packaging helped recruit smokers from a young age.

More than 300,000 children aged under 16 in England try smoking each year, according to government figures.

The consultation will also examine if plain packaging could lead to a rise in cigarette packets being sold on the black market.

Mr Lansley said the tobacco companies used certain colours to trigger memories and their brands constituted a type of advertising.

"We don't want to work in partnership with the tobacco companies because we are trying to arrive at a point where they have no business in this country," he added.

Counterfeiting 'risk'

The consultation document is expected to suggest that branded tobacco packets create "smoker identity", with certain brands seen as "cool" and "popular", the paper reported.

It is also expected to say that tobacco firms use colours and logos to boost their profits.

The Tobacco Manufacturers' Association said it "welcomed" the consultation.

But Jane Chisholm-Caunt, secretary-general of the TMA, said: "There is no reliable evidence plain packaging will reduce rates of youth smoking.

"Smoking initiation in children is actually linked to a complex range of socio-economic factors including home life, peer pressure and truancy and exclusion from school."

And she warned plain packaging would only serve to make counterfeiting cigarettes easier.

Simon Clark, director of the smokers' group Forest which runs the "Hands Off Our Packs" campaign, added: "The consultation on plain packaging threatens to be a farce.

"Andrew Lansley says he is open minded yet he clearly supports plain packaging even before the consultation has begun."

Smoking rates have fallen significantly since the link with cancer was established beyond doubt in the 1950s.

But it recent years the decline has slowed with the number of adult smokers hovering above the 21% for some time.

Ministers have promised to reduce this to 18.5% by 2015.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 700.

    About time. The tobacco companies will do anything they can to increase the numbers of smokers - and they don't care about the age of the people they influence. Anything that makes it difficult for them is a good thing :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 699.

    Absolute spatula head

  • rate this

    Comment number 698.

    Since the Majority of the UK adults do not smoke, we should assume some non smokers do not like the way these legislations are going either.
    Its not just about Smoking. Its about everything that is bad for you, people fear in future this treatment will extend to the two other biggies: Alcohol and the Overweight.
    Quite right too as these are the biggest killers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 697.

    We don't want our kids to start smoking, so we need to make smoking as non-cool as possible, so let's make them embarrassing to buy. Sell the ciggies from the incontinence pad counter along with the haemorrhoid cream.

  • rate this

    Comment number 696.

    This should have been done years ago.

  • rate this

    Comment number 695.

    Is it not important to look at the positives. The cigarette cases that have cartoons and jewels on could be very profitable. Or maybe we could sell decorating kits to colour in the plain boxes for the kids especially.

  • rate this

    Comment number 694.

    647. Fred Bloggs

    "At older ages, smokers incurred higher costs. Because of differences in life expectancy, however, lifetime health expenditure was highest among healthy-living people and lowest for smokers."

    The extract you chose to "selectively" quote leaves out a crucial fact. The comparison is between obese people & smokers both groups that cost lots in health care. Muppet or spin merchant?

  • rate this

    Comment number 693.

    In the words of Doctor Dennis Leary
    It doesn't matter how big the warnings on the cigarettes are; you could have a black pack, with a skull and crossbones on the front, called TUMORS, and smokers would be around the block going, "I can't wait to get my hands on these things! I bet ya get a tumor as soon as you light up!"

    A design does not cure addiction. If it did no one would smoke crack

  • rate this

    Comment number 692.

    Whatever next? The Government to ban fancy packaging on food in an attempt to curb the rise in obesity?

  • rate this

    Comment number 691.


    Since the Majority of the UK adults do not smoke, we should assume some non smokers do not like the way these legislations are going either.
    Its not just about Smoking. Its about everything that is bad for you, people fear in future this treatment will extend to the two other biggies: Alcohol and the Overweight.

  • rate this

    Comment number 690.

    If the government really wanted to finish smoking it could do so by simply inreasing the legal age by which you can buy tobacco by 1 year every year or every 2 years for a milder approach.

  • rate this

    Comment number 689.

    BBC haven't you learnt by now that all HYS debates which revolve around smoking being bad for you/bad for others are invariably hijacked by the smoking junkies who presumably stick a fag in each ear while saying "what the hell do health experts know about health I smoke and I'm not dead yet and my taxes cover the extra cost incurred for my NHS treatment from poisoning myself. so that's ok then!"

  • rate this

    Comment number 688.

    There are lots of ways to abuse health. Obese people, drug addicts and alcoholics usually own up to doing so. Most long term smokers however remain in a state of denial as is shown by this discussion. Face up to the reality–Smoking Kills and 1 in 2 long-term smokers will die prematurely. The packaging initiative may not be the best way to get people to quit but its a step in the right direction.

  • rate this

    Comment number 687.

    And what's next. Same label on every bottle of beer, crisps, butter, gum. Let's have tesco or EU on every shop front. Let's all wear jeans and earrings, tattooed head to foot. Or better still, move to a free country,where the much-coveted education can be put to good use.

  • rate this

    Comment number 686.

    I am a smoker and I also realise the dangers of smoking and would like to give up, however, the colour of a cigarette packet will not influence anything in my opinion. If the government is so passionate about everyone giving up, then why not make it illegal to sell cigarettes? This will not happen dues to the masses of tax losses the government will face. Nanny state Britain is coming :-(

  • rate this

    Comment number 685.

    I feel sorry for the shop assistants.

    Some of them have enough difficulty identifying my preferred brand of cigarretes on the shelves.

    If I'm reduced to saying 'It's the plain white packet next to the other plain white packet, just below the plain white packet you've got there' we're going to be there all day.

  • Comment number 684.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 683.

    I am going to pop to China and buy a load of the nicely decorated cases they do for ciggy boxes. I have seen them with football clubs, cartoon characters and some nice beaded bejewelled ones. I reckon I will be able to well with them. What do you guys think?

  • rate this

    Comment number 682.

    #674 Ricardo

    It will help counterfeiters because it will reduce costs and lesson the chances of being discovered as it will be far easier to copy one plain box well than the 87 brands currently available.

  • rate this

    Comment number 681.

    Even as a non smoker, i find policies such as this and hiding cigs behind locked cabinets incredibly patronising and it shows a complete lack of understanding about what it means to be an addict (see also minimum alcohol pricing). Heavy smokers are addicts, not simpletons.


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