Government to move ahead with standardised cigarette packets

 

Inside an Australian tobacconist where the plain package rules are already in force

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The government is moving forward with plans to ban branding on cigarette packs, Public Health Minister Jane Ellison told MPs.

She said an independent report found it was "very likely to have a positive impact" on public health and stop children from starting to smoke.

Ms Ellison said she was publishing draft regulations for a final, "short consultation".

Labour accused Ms Ellison of kicking the issue "into the long grass".

The consultation will apply to England and Wales, while Northern Ireland has indicated it will follow suit and Scotland already has plans to introduce plain packaging, meaning the UK could become the first place in Europe to make this step.

Shadow health secretary Luciana Berger called for immediate legislation to ban branding, telling MPs: "There is an overwhelming body of evidence in favour of standardised packaging and there can be no excuse for a further delay."

'Vested interests'

She added: "How many more children are going to take up smoking before this government makes a decision?"

Make no mistake, the move to introduce plain packaging is just the latest front in the war against smoking.

Over the past decade, there has been a ban on smoking in public places and moves to restrict displays in shops.

But one of the issues that has been concerning health experts and ministers is the number of people who continue to take up smoking, particularly young people.

More than 200,000 under-16s start in the UK each year - helping ensure a viable market remains for manufacturers once the number of people quitting and dying is taken into account.

In countries like the UK where there is a ban on advertising, the pack remains the last major vehicle for promotion.

Hence the detail and care taken in the design of the packets with their laminated and special print effects, foil decorations and slide openings and bevelled edges.

It should come as no surprise therefore to learn that they have become known as the "silent salesman" and "mobile billboard" within the industry. They are that important.

She accused the government of "caving in to vested interests" on the issue.

Labour claims the Conservative Party favours the tobacco lobby after a series of delays in a decision on whether to move ahead with a branding ban.

The tobacco industry argues standardised packaging would lead to a rise in illegally smuggled cigarettes in Britain and argues that evidence from Australia, which became the first country to bring in standardised packaging in 2011, shows little impact on smoking rates.

Ms Ellison told MPs the latest independent report, by paediatrician Sir Cyril Chantler, has found evidence that the Australian legislation has had a positive impact.

She said about 200,000 children aged between 11 and 15 start smoking in the UK every year - about 600 a day.

She told MPs: "If this rate of smoking by children was reduced even by 2%, for example, it would mean that 4,000 fewer children take up smoking each year.

Health Minister Jane Ellison: "We want our nation's children to grow up happy and healthy"

"Sir Cyril's report makes a compelling case that if standardised packaging were introduced it would be very likely to have a positive impact on public health and that these health benefits would include health benefits for children."

'Nanny state'

She added: "We want our nation's children to grow up happy and healthy and free from the heavy burden of diseases that tobacco brings."

Start Quote

"Conservatives believe in freedom and the best way to stop people smoking is through education and not by banning things”

End Quote Robert Halfon Conservative MP

She denied the government was dragging its heels, saying the final legislation had to be "robust" and part of broader efforts to combat smoking and all "stakeholders" had to have their say.

But she said the government's intention was "clear" and she promised changes before the next election in May 2015, although MPs would be given a vote on the proposals before they came into force.

A succession of Conservative backbenchers attacked the plan, saying it was an example of the "nanny state" and that there were enough warnings about the dangers of smoking already.

Robert Halfon, who successfully campaigned for a cut in bingo tax, said: "Conservatives believe in freedom and the best way to stop people smoking is through education and not by banning things."

Print workers

He said there would be a "huge impact on small shops and small businesses" if standardised packaging went ahead.

Jacob Rees-Mogg said Sir Cyril's report had found it was too early to draw any any firm conclusions from the Australian legislation and said the findings were "indirect and speculative".

"As the government may be taking away a freedom from the British people oughtn't it to be more certain of its ground?" he asked.

Dame Angela Watkinson said: "Nobody in this country smokes in ignorance and people who do so do it as a deliberate choice."

Public health minister Jane Ellison Public health minister Jane Ellison said MPs would get a vote on the issue
Conservative MP Sir Paul Beresford Conservative MP Sir Paul Beresford backed a ban

Labour MP Diana Johnson said Dame Angela had accepted a gift from Japan Tobacco, makers of Benson and Hedges cigarettes. The register of members' interests shows the Hornchurch MP accepted hospitality and two tickets to last year's Chelsea Flower show, worth £1,260.

Conservative MP Sir Paul Beresford, a dentist, backed the ban, telling those protesting against it: "If I could arrange for them to come into an operating theatre to see the damage that oral cancer does to people they might actually change their mind."

Most Labour MPs who spoke supported legislation - but Bradford South MP Gerry Sutcliffe warned about the impact on print workers in his constituency if branding was removed from cigarette packets.

The British Medical Association welcomed the minister's statement but said there should be no further delays to legislation.

Dr Ram Moorthy, deputy chair of the BMA's Board of Science, said: "As doctors we see first-hand every day the devastating effects of tobacco addiction and we call on the government to make a decision quickly and to introduce standardised packaging at the earliest possible opportunity in order to help put an end to a life-long addiction that kills and destroys health."

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: "The Welsh Government has long been a proponent of standardised packaging of tobacco products and we recognise that has the potential to be an important tool in our bid to reduce the harm from tobacco-related illness.

"We are therefore delighted with today's announcement that the UK government will go ahead with standardised packaging. This will also apply to Wales, following a short consultation on draft regulations."

 

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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 894.

    Brands appeal, so doing away with them will help.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 782.

    What about a ban on TV programmes and films that show people smoking as they probably do more to encourage youngsters to smoke than a brand name written on a packet? This is especially the case in programmes showing school/student age characters e.g. Skins. Also films showing smoking as a "sexy" activity.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 716.

    I started smoking in 1970 I was enticed by the colourful packaging camel cigarette they were and every time I went into that corner shop I would look at the packs of cigarettes when buying sweets I soon started buying them and eventually ended up smoking embassy cigarettes for a long time I don't smoke now but do use e/gigs

  • rate this
    +9

    Comment number 554.

    I understand why this might upset the tobacco companies (who will save a fortune on printing costs as they did on advertising) but can think of absolutely no reason why smokers should be as upset as they appear to be.
    There is nothing that restricts their access to the desired product. There is no cost to the government in implementing it aside of any time it takes to discuss it in parliament.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 542.

    We've got nothing to lose and a lot to gain from introducing standardised tobacco packaging. I'm glad the government have finally decided to go ahead and do it.

 

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    David Cameron in PMQs

    Deputy PM Nick Clegg has spent countless PMQs sat next to David Cameron - and has now admitted his expression of concentration is one of boredom, not thoughtful concentration. He jokingly tells LBC presenter Nick Ferrari that he ought to consider finding other ways to amuse himself in the remaining sessions before the election: a book? Yes, Clegg says, adding "Danny Alexander tells me Candy Crush is a great game. I could help with my children's homework."

    The Lib Dem leader - who his advisers are determined to position as an anti-establishment figure despite five years in government - adds, in serious mode: "I think it has descended into the most facile yah-boo kind of politics. The only kind of people who get excited about it are the people in the Westminster village."

     
  57.  
    @PickardJE Jim Pickard

    tweets: Labour aide re Blairite critics: "Get on and help win the election or you can manoeuvre for personal position and caress your own vanity."

     
  58.  
    09:36: Clegg on the TV debates LBC
    Nick Clegg on LBC

    Mr Clegg shrugs off David Cameron's suggestion that the Lib Dems are troublemaking over the TV debates. The blame game, he says, is becoming "ludicrous". He then outlines a carefully-crafted argument about why only those parties which "run things" should feature - and not parties like the SNP and Plaid Cymru. "Just imagine what it's going to be like for the viewing public: by the time everyone's done their one-minute introduction the whole nation will have switched over to Coronation Street."

     
  59.  
    09:32: Breaking News

    Some breaking news now as secondary school performance tables for 2013-14 are published for England. There's controversy over this year's set of data, as the number of secondary schools in England deemed to be underperforming has doubled in a year. It follows confusion over the recognition of the International GCSE qualification.

     
  60.  
    Clegg on Katie Price LBC
    Katie Price

    Nick Clegg is refusing to let the controversy over Katie Price's son undermine his support for the universal nature of support for children with disabilities. Some have suggested the model, rather than the taxpayer, should pay for her son Harvey's treatment. But Clegg doesn't think a case like this changes anything.

    "I would be pretty reluctant to say on the facts of this individual case we therefore throw out the idea of universally treating all children with disabilities with the same kind of compassion and support," he says.

     
  61.  
    @LBC LBC Radio

    tweets: Nick Ferrari asks whether the state should be paying for the transfer of Katie Price's disabled son http://l-bc.co/C1egg #CallClegg

    and

    tweets: Clegg says it's down to the local authority to decide that - even if Katie Price has £30m in the bank http://l-bc.co/C1egg #CallClegg

     
  62.  
    09:24: Tory leadership poll

    In a YouGov poll for the Times (pay wall), London Mayor, Boris Johnson, is edging ahead of five other Tory politicians in a poll on whether they would make a good party leader. YouGov polled 1,655 people on January 27 and 28, with respondents rating the politicians as a "Good leader", "Not a good leader", "Unsure" or "Don't know enough about the person". The other "candidates" are George Osborne, Theresa May, Sajid Javid, Jermey Hunt and Liz Truss.

     
  63.  
    @politicshome PoliticsHome blog

    tweets: .@nick_clegg - "I v much hope nurses would not feel in any way discouraged or intimidated from coming forward" to report NHS failings #LBC

     
  64.  
    The Spectator

    tweets: Europe's crisis is Cameron's opportunity, says @JGForsyth. specc.ie/1yAO3hF

    Spectator cartoon
     
  65.  
    09:02: Murray moments

    A quick look at this Twitter conversation and it's clear some Scottish politicians would much rather watch this morning's Andy Murray match than prepare for Scottish First Minister's Questions.

     
  66.  
    08:56: Benefit fraud plans
    money

    The maximum administrative penalty for benefit fraud that can be offered as an alternative to prosecution could be doubled under government proposals. The House of Commons is going to be asked to approve plans to increase the maximum fine from £2,000 to £5,000. The government says £1.2bn a year is lost to benefit fraud, and that those who commit the crime should "pay a heavy price".

     
  67.  
    08:55: Cost of care BBC Radio 4

    Care minister Norman Lamb is calling on the insurance industry to do more to encourage people to plan ahead for their care needs in old age. His call comes after a BBC investigation found seventeen leading insurance companies currently had no plans to offer suitable policies. Next year, the government will introduce a new £72,000 cap on an individual's care costs and it had been hoped insurance companies would offer policies allowing people to insure themselves for that amount well in advance of any need. Speaking to the Today programme, Mr Lamb said the insurance industry had to "step up to the plate". It had a responsibility, he said, to ensure that the right products were available.

     
  68.  
    House of Commons

    tweets: Commons Chamber sits from 9.30am starting with #Environment, #Food & Rural Affairs Questions. Watch live http://goo.gl/SKhZyE @DefraGovUK

     
  69.  
    08:42: Iraq Inquiry delays
    soldier in Iraq

    Elsewhere on the political agenda, MPs are expected to express their dissatisfaction with the progress of the official inquiry into the Iraq War when they debate the issue in the Commons. The final report from Sir John Chilcot's inquiry, which began its work in 2009, won't be published before May's election. Backbenchers from all parties have been urging officials to explain the delays and give a timetable for publication. Debate is expected to start from around 11:15. Watch proceedings on BBC Democracy Live.

     
  70.  
    08:36: School league tables BBC Radio 4

    Graham Stuart, the Conservative MP who chairs the Education Select Committee, tells the BBC Radio 4 Today programme that the comparison between this year and last year's secondary school league tables are indeed difficult to make - but the changes the government has made to the system are "essential" and will ensure a fairer picture of what is happening in schools. The results for schools in England will be published at 09:30 GMT.

     
  71.  
    Chuka Umunna, Labour business spokesman

    tweets: "Entrepreneurs aren't lone wolves: Labour will back them for the good of all" | my piece in today's @CityAM

     
  72.  
    08:15: Murray moments
    tennis

    Politicians on the campaign trail may struggle to make themselves heard by sports fans this morning as Britain's Andy Murray takes on Tomas Berdych in the men's semi-final of the Australian Open in Melbourne. Follow the match online with live video, radio and text commentary or watch it on BBC Two from 08:20 GMT.

     
  73.  
    @RobbieGibb Robbie Gibb, Daily Politics editor

    tweets: On today's Daily Politics...... #bbcdp

    Screen grab
     
  74.  
    08:01: Clegg hails Growth Fund BBC Breakfast

    Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, says today's announcement that £2bn worth of public investment will move from central to regional control was all about backing local people and driving local economic growth.

     
  75.  
    07:57: School league tables
    girl at

    As we've reported, hundreds of secondary schools in England, including many top private schools, could see their league table ratings plummet following a shake-up of the system. They're being published at 09:30 GMT. The government says it has stripped out qualifications of little value, but some head teachers say the tables will be "a complete mess" because of the changes.

    Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College leaders, says it even "calls into question the validity of the performance tables".

     
  76.  
    Chris Mason Political correspondent, BBC News

    tweets: A "clammy hands" theme to Nick Clegg's interviews. He's told @bbcbreakfast&@gmb about sticky paws of "bureaucrats." http://bit.ly/18xccRz

     
  77.  
    Norman Smith, BBC News Assistant Political Editor

    tweets: Nick Clegg - Never mind the apocolypitc warnings we will confound our critics at the election

     
  78.  
    07:39: Poll tracker
    poll tracker graphic

    The polls will be coming thick and fast in the coming months - keep up to date with the BBC's new interactive poll tracker, which lets you see the results of polls conducted by a range of organisations.

    The tracker also includes a timeline of key events, so you can see how public opinion might have shifted at important junctures in the past five years.

     
  79.  
    07:34: 'Responsible and fair' BBC Breakfast

    Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg says the central question of the election campaign is how to finish the job of securing an economic recovery - and doing so fairly. In Bristol, the deputy prime minister tells BBC Breakfast News that Labour wants to "lurch off" to the left and the Conservatives to the right. The Conservatives, he says, want to make cuts for ideological reasons; Labour wants to stick its head in the sand and not deal with the deficit. The Liberal Democrats would cut less than the Conservative and borrow less than Labour.

     
  80.  
    07:26: Scottish Home Rule
    Ed miliband

    A "Home Rule Bill for Scotland" would be introduced within the first 100 days of a Labour government, leader Ed Miliband says. He will make the commitment during a visit to Glasgow later. The Scottish National Party says any suggestion the bill would amount to real Home Rule is "laughable".

     
  81.  
    07:23: Oversight criticised

    The Department for International Development has been criticised by MPs for "unacceptably poor" oversight of a UK-funded development agency. The Public Accounts Committee says the Private Infrastructure Development Group is beset by "poor financial management". It says there are doubts about the integrity of its investments and a closer eye is needed on its spending - including spending of more than £75,000 on 15 flights between January 2011 and July 2014.

     
  82.  
    07:21: League tables row
    schools

    New league tables for English secondary schools are being published today and not everybody will be pleased with what they show. Scores of top private secondaries expect to be at the bottom of the tables, following confusion over International GCSEs. School leaders say many schools have been "caught unawares" by a shift in which qualifications are recognised. Speaking to Radio 4, Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association for Head Teachers, says publishing data on schools is the right thing to do - but they need to be used with "extreme caution", particularly this year.

     
  83.  
    Price of power The Daily Telegraph

    Scrap Trident, ditch Barnett, reverse the cuts - the price of power for Miliband and Cameron in a hung parliament http://tgr.ph/1K8DUzv

     
  84.  
    07:16: Clegg in Bristol BBC Breakfast
    Nick Clegg

    Nick Clegg is in Bristol announcing a new round of local investment. "We need to end the Whitehall knows best culture that has held this country back for far too long," he tells the BBC.

    Under the coalition's Growth Deals scheme, around £2bn a year from Whitehall budgets is being gathered into a Local Growth Fund. The money is then being channelled through 39 Local Enterprise Partnerships, run by councils and businesses.

     
  85.  
    07:15: Don't dismiss the Greens Financial Times

    In its leader column, the Financial Times (pay wall) argues for greater scrutiny of Green Party policies. The German Greens, it says, can claim credit for that country's abandonment of nuclear power generation. And, in the UK, the party's growing popularity puts pressure on Labour to move in a green-ward direction.

     
  86.  
    07:04: Women in prison BBC Radio 5 live
    Prison officer locking gates

    The government is expected to announce measures today aimed at trying to stop so many women being sent to prison. Justice Minister Simon Hughes wants to halve the number of women ending up behind bars. He tells BBC Radio 5 live Breakfast female offenders are a "special case" and should be treated differently to men because many had been victims themselves. There are currently around 3,800 women in prison in England and Wales.

     
  87.  
    07:02: Breaking News BBC Breakfast

    Deputy PM Nick Clegg arrives in Bristol to announce latest round of Growth Fund investment, he will be live on BBC Breakfast 07:10. You can watch via the Live Video tab at the top of this page.

     
  88.  
    06:52: Where are the Real Tories? The Guardian

    In the Guardian, Simon Jenkins bemoans what he sees as the absence of "Real Tories" from the election campaign. They, he says, would oppose the advance of the modern state. But, according to the columnist, no Westminster politician "dares oppose the monolithic interest group that is modern government".

     
  89.  
    06:50: NHS survey
    Doctor

    Public satisfaction with the way the NHS runs in England, Wales and Scotland has risen to its second highest level ever, according to survey data for 2014, published by the King's Fund health think tank. The latest results show satisfaction with the NHS rising from 60% to 65% in 2014, while dissatisfaction fell to an all-time low of 15%.

    A couple of caveats though: This is a survey of 1,937 members of the public, not patients specifically, so the findings are more likely to reflect perceptions of the NHS than experience of it; and the polling was carried out before the recent well-publicised winter pressures on the NHS began to bite.

    A BBC/Populus poll this week suggested the NHS was the most important issue ahead of the general election, in May.

     
  90.  
    06:47: Fury The Daily Mail

    A more in-depth look at some of today's papers now.

    Tomorrow's Mail front page

    The Daily Mail says Labour's "big beasts are at war over Ed Miliband's controversial election campaign tactics", after grandee John Prescott "reacted with fury" to interventions by former Labour Health Secretary Alan Milburn and former minister Lord Hutton who aired frustration over the party's "retreat into its supposed 'comfort zone' of the NHS".

     
  91.  
    BBC Radio 4 Today
    BBC

    tweets: Read today's full running order here: bbc.in/1LjBFg6 #r4today

     
  92.  
    06:29: Making the headlines
    Telegraph/Guardian front pages

    Here is a round-up of the main stories covered in the UK's national newspapers this morning - including a look at the front pages and expert reviews on the BBC News Channel.

     
  93.  
    06:24: Back out campaigning

    After all the excitement of Prime Minister's Questions at Westminster yesterday, the party leaders are expected to be back out and about today, as the long election campaign continues.

     
  94.  
    06:20: Good morning Alex Hunt Politics editor, BBC News Online

    Hello and welcome to a fresh day's coverage of political developments ahead of the 7 May General Election - yes there's just 98 days to go now. You'll be able to listen or watch all the BBC's political output today on this page and we'll be bringing you all the best clips, quotes, analysis, reaction and breaking political news throughout the day. If you want to see what to expect, here's yesterday's campaign countdown.

     

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