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 1714.

    @1709, It's easy to quit, I should know, Ive done it a thousand times. Mark Twain.

  • Comment number 1713.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1712.

    @1704 Phil
    Spot on, mate

    Thought so. Time for bed.... after a Windsor King Size. ;¬(

    I enjoyed the debate, even though we disagree, thanks.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1711.

    As a smoker I'm yet to here another smoker say "hey want to have a look at my cig packet?" so I highly doubt this will do anything.

    Shame really as I'd come to enjoy the game we had invented regarding the gruesome pictures so hopefully that equally failed idea will stay on the plain packets.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1710.

    Dear HYSers, please vote @"1677. frances" -- she's a smoking nurse, one of the good guys, with a liberal understanding view .... and some cad(s) voted her down. Let's show our appreciation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1709.

    1707 - christhechameleon -

    please tell me -based on your past posts - were you an addict (addicted) - or an habitual user (a mere creature of habit) - and please define the difference.
    So - It's the easiest thing the world to quit?? - please - and I'm being totally serious - please,please enlighten me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1708.

    My 30 stone wife insists on smoking in bed after we've made love.

    I can't complain though.... she's only got 2 fags left in the packet of 20 Woodbines she bought back on our wedding night in 1957.

    ... I"m still baffled where the other 17 went though...

  • rate this

    Comment number 1707.

    1705 frankslad

    I'm not going to shift from my argument, because after discovering the facts, and understanding why I smoked, it was the easiest thing in the world to quit. Four months and no pain.

    I know the arguments - I used them myself before I realised I was being conned. The tobacco cos con you while you smoke, the pharma companies con you when you give up.

    You don't need either of them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1706.

    Introducing plain packaging is such a simple and common sense thing to do. We shouldn't even be having a debate about it, we should just do it.

    It's just another small step towards the ultimate goal of making tobacco and illegal narcotic, something I would very much support.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1705.

    re 1701 - christhechamelon -

    No smokers don't smoke 8 cigs to 'make up the difference' precisely because the brain behaves differently in sleep and wake state - they just need a hit!.
    As you said - heroin addicts won't let sleep get in the way of a fix - but after a fix - don't you think heroin addicts ever sleep. Do you think they have 5 fixes after 5 hours sleep?

  • Comment number 1704.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1703.

    @ 1699

    I figure that the 'real' Phil is one of those loners, with not too many friends, who thinks that his views are more worthy than those who he feels are lesser mortals.

    I bet you're a real hoot on a (smoke free) night out. ;¬)

  • rate this

    Comment number 1702.

    Thanks to the anti-smoking measures of recent years, the adverse impact of smokers on non-smokers has largely disappeared. Just about the only remaining irritation is the need to squeeze past groups of unhappy smokers who block the entrance to office buildings, standing forlornly amid their filthy pile of cigarette butts. On balance, smokers now seem to be more oppressed than oppressive.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1701.

    1700 frankslad

    I agree with your point that the brain behaves differently when you're asleep. But we're talking about addiction - physical addiction.

    If you're a heroin addict, sleep won't get in the way of you needing a fix. Do smokers wake up and immediately smoke eight cigarettes to make up for the nicotine they missed when they were asleep?


    Because it's just a habit.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1700.

    re 1695 - christhechamelon

    so during the day - do you go 8 hours without drinking? You do when you are asleep! Or do you need to wake every hour to drink?

    The idea that the brain behaves in the same way when it is in sleep mode vs waking mode is totally spurious!

  • Comment number 1699.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1698.

    Why not talk to 'experts on addiction' because clearly the Ministers don't know the facts and certainly don't want to listen to smokers/ex-smokers when we say.......its NOT ABOUT THE PACKAGING YOU IDIOTS.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1697.

    1689 - CodeCruncher -
    Love your free view of the world - and personal choice -
    Ban smoking (BAD) - ban alcohol (BAD) -
    What next?
    Fatty food? Sedentary lifestyle? Too much thinking - might end up disagreeing with your view of right and wrong?
    Dictators always think they know what is best for EVERYONE! Individuals have the right to make choices - even if they are bad for them!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1696.

    Why do you dudes smoke anyways? Each to his own I guess. I actually don't mind cigarette smoke for some reason despite not being a smoker.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1695.

    1691 Phil_Bunting

    They want you to believe that! That's how they keep selling cigarettes!

    If nicotine was addictive, then smokers would need to wake every hour of the night to feed their addiction, like during the daytime.

    Smoking is a habit. The addiction argument is institutionalised marketing and a handy excuse for smokers who are scared to break the habit.

    And I say that as an ex-smoker.


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