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 1254.


    My cat was run over at 22yrs old. She smoked all her life and was happy. It was a non smoker who run her over, busy texting rubbish no doubt on this page.
    My dad is on his last legs or leg. Has MS and had 3 strokes due to stress at work. Try taking his fags away, it's the only thing he enjoys.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1253.

    leave people to live and die how they like, less tax legilise all drugs and spend money on education. These measures will have little effect on young smokers or old. By the way tax gained on cigarettes pays 10 times over for health related issues directly associated with smoking. The do gooders of this world and the nanny state are getting out of hand.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1252.

    I don't know any smokers that don't drink...But anyway, smokers are in total denial, hence the need for laws.

    Well if you don't know any then there can't be any can there Phil?! Are you suggesting the binge drinkers, obese etc are without denial? Why are you not championing laws for them also? Because you like a drink or a burger and don't want people telling you what to do?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1251.

    I am struggling to understand why this headline has held pole position on the BBC website ALL DAY. There are many more important pieces of news. But by golly, doesn't it get the sanctimonious, holier than thou Nasty Brigade wound up. Two days of smoker bashing! Two days of turning a blind eye to the many woes of alcohol abuse in our society. The BBC are a great mouthpiece for this govt!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1250.

    " 1245.
    If the state is nannying here, it is because people make poor choices."

    That's your opinion, but we believe in the freedom of people to make choices, and who gives you, me or the State the right to decide what is a "poor" choice? Your comment about your child is irrelevant - as a parent you are repsonsible for that child. You are NOT responsible for everyone else in the world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1249.

    1232. Phil_Bunting "I don't know any smokers that don't drink."

    I smoke. I haven't drunk alcohol since i was 22. There are plenty of smokers out there who don't drink.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1248.

    Just now

    Violent drinkers are violent because they have a violent personality. Violent people get drunk and do violent things.


    I must admit to knowing more violent drinkers than smokers. I don`t recall a smoker smoking a cigarette and in a fit of rage punch his partner senseless. I`ve known several drinkers do just that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1247.

    1229 - James.

    Well yes, but you are not alone. As I posted yesterday (in sympathy to another Poster), I lost my dear Sister also through smoking.

    But, I maintain that your Post 1189 may have been personal to you while appearing extremist to others. I think that if you had put it within context, then it would have been understood for what it was. We read & presume the definitive, don't we?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1246.

    It would be interesting if this easy target were applied to other life styles thought to influence health? Alcohol, obesity, stress, yobs, litter louts and everything else I take objection to. I smoked one cigarette in my 67 years. Not impressed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1245.

    Smoking only has downsides; the upsides are imagined only (in response to advertising). If the state is nannying here, it is because people make poor choices. Nothing to do with liberty. I don't give my child the liberty to run in front of a car.
    Admittedly in this case (after the smoking ban) they only harm themselves and their immediate families..

  • rate this

    Comment number 1244.

    I think cigarette packaging was targeted in the late 1980's or early 1990's. Almost overnight, entrepreneurs came up with colored sleeves...throw off the messaged ones and put on a work of art.

    And so it goes.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 1243.

    "1124. derek powell

    whats in a ciggy

    Nicotine -
    Tar -
    Cyanide -
    Naphthalene -
    Acetone -
    Ammonia -

    sounds lovely"

    That's in the smoke.

    Pharma companies are actively looking at nicotine and nicotine-related compounds to treat anxiety, depression, Alzheimer's, Tourette Syndrome, ADHD, Parkinson's disease, diabetes and schizophrenia.

    Tobacco is bad for you - nicotine, not so much.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1242.

    nice to see the smokers out in force voting down everyone's comments who believe smoking should be banned because it's disgusting and damaging everyone's health.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1241.

    Plain Packets??? It can't get anymore pathetic.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1240.

    Discouraging old smokers would be a good start. They set the example to the young smokers. The supposedly older and wiser habitually puffing on their dog ends!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1239.

    Violent drinkers are violent because they have a violent personality. Violent people get drunk and do violent things. Nice people get drunk and are still nice. Blaming violence on alcohol is an easy scapegoat. The truth is that there are sociopaths out there, and people with serious anger problems. Societies without alcohol still have violence!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1238.

    So labour would rather focus on issues that people have a choice about instead of dismissing the problem that over 80,00 children in the UK are homeless. A roof over your head should not be a priviledge.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1237.

    @1229. James

    It should be banned then, until then, those who chose to engage in this completely legal pursuit using completely legal products should be treated with the same respect as any other self determining law abiding adult.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1236.

    Far too much nonsense about e-cigs being harmful. My doctor is thrilled to bits I have given up the tobacco after 50 years, and that's through e-cigs. Do a bit of research before posting ignorant comments.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1235.

    1196. Robo
    Back in Einstein's day cigarettes were still being advertised as a healthy option. A better argument would be to show how many of the geniuses of today smoke.

    1215. kc_chiefs
    Exactly! All these smokers insisting they have a right to smoke wherever they want thus removing the choice of others not to breathe it in


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