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

    Comment number 723.

    I've never read such ill-informed comments. Around 600 children - that's CHILDREN - take up smoking every day, so ANYTHING we can do to prevent this is worthwhile, even if it just reduces that figure a little. When I was a very small kid I used to collect cigarette packs - far less attractive than they are now. I found them irresistible and it wasn't long before I graduated to the contents!

  • rate this

    Comment number 722.

    What a lot of the anti smoking brigade fails to realise is that the 'quit or die' relentless onslaught only serves to create hardcore smokers who are even more disinclined to give up.

    Of course, by creating a hardcore of smokers, the anti tobacco lobby get to perpetuate their careers.

    All plain packaging will do is cut down on design/marketing costs for the tobacco corps.

  • rate this

    Comment number 721.

    Bring it on. I've just bought shares in a trendy cigarette case manufacturer - remember Ipod covers - collectable in their extreme - muppets

  • rate this

    Comment number 720.

    2 Minutes ago
    I wonder how many non smokers drive?
    I am sick of having your car smoke pumped down my throat every day.


    When a smoker has their smoking-induced heart attack, they will have to wait a long time for a tobacco powered ambulance to arrive. A petrol/diesel powered vehicle is a far better choice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 719.

    Remember ladies and gentlemen, our leaders are omniscient and faultless. We must resolutely support this extremely effective and no doubt well-thought out legislation which attacks the root of the problem - the packaging those wily tobacco barons put their cigarettes in. Addiction certainly has nothing to do with the cigarettes themselves. Support the ban, think of the children!

  • rate this

    Comment number 718.

    There comes a point where a free society is no longer free. This is a prime example of the 'nanny state' run amok. I also agree with Matt about forbidding major corporations use of their trademarks and logos. This could wind up in the courts. Or the corporations could simply choose to take their business elsewhere - painful, PAINFUL loss of tax revenue! Talk about a panicked government...

  • rate this

    Comment number 717.

    Another political façade by the government in the hope of winning votes in the next election. The worst part is, some poor saps will actually think they're making this country better.

  • rate this

    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

    Comment number 715.

    I suspect this is more about finding who is smoking illegal ciggies imported from the continent than anything to do with health

  • rate this

    Comment number 714.

    The nanny state interferes again. The socialists just can't resist trying to control everything we do. Cameron has forgotten what tories stand for thankfully UKIP hasn't.

  • rate this

    Comment number 713.

    It’s not your choice, it’s personal choice. I demand plan political logos too, since all the main parties now believe in nanny state. Drink is next, followed by plain boxed burgers. Sugar and salt in transparent wrapping will be fine.

  • rate this

    Comment number 712.

    3 Hours ago

    its about time this was done. if people want to smoke thats fine. But i do not see why companies should advertise through their packaging and attempt to entice young kids to smoke.


    But enticing kids to drink alcohol and eat fatty and sugary foods though advetising is acceptable is it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 711.

    Doesn't this Government have more important things to get on with?

  • rate this

    Comment number 710.

    I don't understand how plain packaging will stop children wanting to smoke, I recently read that a doc's are thinking of trying to bring in the ban on the sale of cigs to any born after 2000 why don't they just do that or is it to do will the revunue fags bring in. Plain or coloured packaging its a box and children have always wanted to see what is inside any box plain boring or colourful.

  • rate this

    Comment number 709.

    When Australia bought in plain packing they were taken to court by the tobacco companies.

    "Philip Morris has asked an offshore tribunal to award it a vast sum in compensation for the loss of what it calls its intellectual property"

    This type of action by corporations undermines all our rights:

  • rate this

    Comment number 708.

    Do Government ministers raise these issues just to be contentious and raise their profile. This proposal will make no difference to smokers or potential smokers any more than the concealment of tobacco products behind shutters in supermarkets did. We have malnourished children and adults in the UK, an NHS in crisis and less than survival welfare. Concentrate on these issues not making a name.

  • rate this

    Comment number 707.

    Anybody that seriously thinks that banning branding on cigarette packets will stop children taking up smoking, does not have enough brain cells in their head to be a public health minister.

  • rate this

    Comment number 706.

    689.CURTAINS 2012
    I doubt they do pay adequately, if they pay at all. However, can you tell me how many such cases exist? Or, do you "not know" again?

    How long do you want to pursue this off topic tangent so you can rabidly bang on about your sacred cow NHS?

  • rate this

    Comment number 705.

    The 1st thing I would do is take the cigarettes out of the pack and put them into a nicer one before I even left the shop, one with no warnings on at all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 704.

    Being fit, healthy and living to 100 is legal in the UK today, even though it is a huge social burden and costs the NHS billions from the pockets of the hard working, dying young, smoking tax-payer...
    Hang-on have I got that wrong?
    Sensibly - anything to stop children from starting smoking, anything at all - is a good thing - for their health, their quality of life, their future.


Page 27 of 63


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