Cigarette packaging: Ministers launch fresh review


Dr Peter Mackereth said brightly-coloured cigarette packaging was a form of ''silent advertising'' for smoking

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The government has announced an independent review of cigarette packaging in England, amid calls for action to discourage young smokers.

David Cameron appeared to distance himself from uniform packaging in July, saying further evidence was needed to show whether it would be effective.

But Public Health Minister Jane Ellison said it was now time to "examine the emerging evidence" on a policy shift.

Labour said immediate action was needed, "not another review".

In a Commons statement, Ms Ellison said standardised tobacco packaging would be brought in after the review if "we are satisfied that there are sufficient grounds to proceed, including public health benefit".

The review, led by paediatrician Sir Cyril Chantler, is set to focus on a pilot scheme in Australia, which became the first country to legislate for standardised packaging in 2011.

It is not really surprising that the government is looking again at the issue of plain packaging for cigarettes.

Out of the two high profile public health measures it championed after the election - minimum alcohol pricing was the other - plain packaging always seemed the more natural fit.

Over the years tougher and tougher measures have been introduced to discourage smoking from bans in public places to forcing shops to sell tobacco products under the counter.

So what has changed? Australia still remains the only country in the world to have introduced unbranded packaging.

But early evidence suggests it was effective.

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 - smokers felt the cigarettes were of poorer quality.

For Labour, shadow public health minister Luciana Berger demanded to know why the government was delaying the introduction of plain packaging "still further" having already held a consultation on the issue in 2012.

Opposition leader Ed Miliband added: "The government should have introduced plain packaging earlier this year - we want them to act swiftly, we want them to act now. We don't need another review.

"Every major public health expert agrees this would help the battle against cancer, against young people taking up smoking."

The government has never officially ruled out changes to cigarette packaging laws, but BBC political editor Nick Robinson said that private briefings from Downing Street had previously suggested the idea was "dead".

He said ministers were likely to have been defeated on Lords amendments to the Children and Families Bill, which enjoyed cross-party support, and would have given the government the power to regulate cigarette packaging.

Ms Ellison confirmed that the government would table its own amendment to the legislation, giving ministers the power to introduce regulations "quickly" when Sir Cyril's review is complete in March 2014 - if they decide to proceed with the policy.

'Rise in counterfeiting'

She rejected suggestions the rethink had been prompted by fears of defeat in the Lords, saying: "It's a year this weekend since the legislation was introduced in Australia. It's the right time to ask people to look at this.

"This is fundamentally about children's health. Two thirds of people start smoking when they're children and it's one of the most important public health issues we face in this country."

"This is what cigarette packets have looked like in Australia since last year", reports Ross Hawkins

A study conducted in Australia found that smokers using standardised plain brown packets were 81% more likely to consider quitting.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said the government had an "open mind" on the review, and "personally" he hoped it would show that plain packaging was effective.

But UKIP deputy leader Paul Nuttall accused Mr Cameron of "scandalously auctioning off the freedom and liberty of the British people for his own political ends, cheered on by the Labour Party".

Branded cigarette packs help smokers avoid buying counterfeit products, suggests cigar-smoking Tory MP Robert Halfon

Cigarette firm British American Tobacco (BAT), which owns brands including Benson & Hedges and Dunhill, said the Australian experiment had "failed" to achieve its public health objectives.

"The evidence shows that the introduction of plain packaging of tobacco products has coincided with an increase in illicit trade," leading to increased profits for "criminals selling black-market tobacco", it argued.

Why olive-coloured packaging?

In a 2011 debate in the Australian parliament, Labor Party MP Mike Symon explained that the proposed plain-packaging legislation would "mandate that the brand name is in a standard colour, position, font size and style and that the packaging will be a standard drab dark brown or olive colour".

"Consumers tend to perceive white and lighter colours as being healthier," he continued.

"Research shows that adults and adolescents in scientifically controlled studies perceive cigarettes in plain packs to be less appealing, less palatable, less satisfying and of lower quality compared to cigarettes in current packaging."

Labour has sought to link Conservative election chief Lynton Crosby's work as a consultant for the tobacco industry to delays in the policy, a claim which was rejected by David Cameron at the time the issue was put on hold in July.

The ban on images on packaging came into force in Australia on 1 January after a long-running legal battle between the former Labor government and the tobacco industry.

Manufacturers claimed the law was unconstitutional and infringed on their intellectual property rights by banning the use of brands and trademarks.

But they said they would comply after the legality of the measure was upheld by the country's highest court.

Cancer Research UK said a move to plain packaging would "save thousands of lives".

"Stopping cigarettes being marketed to children as a glamorous and desirable accessory is one of the greatest gifts we can give the next generation," it added.

More than 450 doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals have signed an open letter saying they also "welcome" the move.

"Cigarette packs are now the key marketing tool employed by the tobacco industry to attract and retain customers," they wrote.

"There is no time to lose and Parliament must act now to protect children from the marketing tactics of the tobacco industry."

The Scottish government has said it is "still committed" to introducing standardised packaging, while New Zealand is also considering the move.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 954.

    I have to agree, my house is stacked floor to ceiling with tampax because of the pretty boxes (and im a male)

    No really, I've never heard some much rubbish in my entire life, as a long term smoker I can without doubt confirm that the packaging has NEVER influenced my choice of cigarettes

    Given the amount of tax on a packet, the last thing the gov want is for people to actually stop!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 953.

    Next thing will be companies making flashy looking covers for the packets, this could well attract more young people to take it up rather than dissuade them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 952.

    Why do you feel the need to resort to abuse? You just sound like a child bully. Does it make you feel big and strong to dish out abuse over an internet forum?

    I do apologise. Clearly smokers do put other people above their own well reasoned and sensible needs and are not wasting their money at all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 951.

    Labour keep saying "urgent action is needed" on almost everything but did nothing in the decade they had an majority.

    Either way, the price is made of mainly of tax so companies can't promote their products on that, advertising is banned so all thats left is packaging. And adults can make their own choice. I've known a number of young smokers and none started becasue of "pretty packaging"

  • rate this

    Comment number 950.

    I got into a relationship with a smoker recently - can't believe how much fags cost!

  • rate this

    Comment number 949.

    "Rather than the packaging how about the cigarette papers have to have the words "I am a stupid selfish mug" printed on them?"

    You could stick one on your forehead.

  • rate this

    Comment number 948.

    There is no getting away from it, smoking is incredibly selfish.

    Every time you inhale, you should think about what it will be like for your family members, who will look after you while you are dying of cancer, and how your grandkids won't get to see you while they are growing up. Even if you live, you will be too breathless to keep up with them.

    What are fags giving you that's more important?

  • rate this

    Comment number 947.

    Time for a smoke and a cup of tea and chill out.
    @921. You appear to know so much. Lets tattoo the same words on Drug Addicts. The Alcoholics The obese. The lazy unemployed. Now what could we put on yours?.

  • rate this

    Comment number 946.

    Lets ban cars next?.Car exhaust fumes are many many more times dangerous then cigarettes but nobody tries to ban the motor car. We stand in town in summer breathing in all the additives coming out of the exhaust system because most cars in town do not get hot enough for the Cat to work properly.Children breathe in these fumes and they are beginning to suffer from leukaemia and asthma very badly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 945.

    This is really not very hard to understand: of course all you smokers are perfectly at freedom to choose to smoke, to be ill, to die a horrible death.

    However, you do not have the right to harm me, my children or anybody else who doesn't smoke!

  • rate this

    Comment number 944.

    Banning things...yeah, that worked out well across the world hasn't it. People never learn, people will always smoke, drink or take other drugs. The problem is a lack of education as always. An adult has the right to make an informed choice. Also to the anti-smoking lobby, smoker pay £12bn in tax on cigarettes yet smoking related illness costs the NHS around £5bn.We'd face a £7bn shortfall.

  • rate this

    Comment number 943.

    If you ask most teenagers who smoke they will tell you that they are young enough for the damage to heal and they will give up if they have to when they are older.
    The campaign would be better focussed not on health but on how much money they are simply burning and paying in tax!

  • rate this

    Comment number 942.

    It's not just the Tax that the goverment gets it's also on average the 5 years less State Pension they need to pay for each smoker :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 941.

    Have to laugh at the picture on the tobacco brand I smoke, it shows a pair of dirty lungs from a smoker, & a pair of clean lungs. So ok, what did the clean lungs previous owner die of???? At the end of the day, they are still dead!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 940.

    If the gov't is so concerned about the young....hire their idols in music & film to tell why its so wrong. But wait, they are in rehab...

  • rate this

    Comment number 939.

    I have been smoking for 20 years, I know it isn't good for me, but actually I don't care because I live how I want to. I own a very successful company which the majority of my employees smoke. Will this ban affect any of us? No, plain packaging or not is not going to make a difference. People don't start smoking because of the packet or quit. It is a personal choice, the want to start or stop

  • rate this

    Comment number 938.

    "˙ʞuᴉɥʇ noʎ ʇɐɥʍ ǝɹɐɔ ʇ,uoʍ ʎǝɥʇ"

    That's entirely my point - I don't care what they think. And of course I would not breathe smoke over a baby. Adults who don't like my smoke are free to cross the road.

    918 MT
    Thx - if only more non-smokers would just let me get on with it (I was going to say butt out, but figured the pun was to corny)

  • rate this

    Comment number 937.

    On many occasions during my time at high school / college students were caught smoking by the teachers. But instead of confiscating the fags and enforcing discipline, the teachers simply gave them a light warning and told them to move out of view.
    This is exactly what the government is doing. Making it only slightly harder for people to smoke, instead of stopping them all together.

  • rate this

    Comment number 936.


    Why do you feel the need to resort to abuse? You just sound like a child bully. Does it make you feel big and strong to dish out abuse over an internet forum?

    I'm a non smoker myself, I do not have issues with people making their OWN choice whether to smoke or not. I do have an issue with all the non smokers who somehow think its ok to abuse people just because they smoke.

  • rate this

    Comment number 935.

    This is yet another Marxist like policy from this dog of an incompetent politically driven govt - stripping Billions of £s of Brand values that these Cos have invested in over many years, selling a legal substance that many people want. Where next? Destroy the alcohol industry too? Prelude to making Scotch blank labels so that Scotland suffers? Inept craven govt!


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