Government tables regulations to make UK first country in Europe to introduce standardised cigarette packs



Monday 23 February 2015

ASH has warmly welcomed the laying of regulations on standardised tobacco packaging before Parliament. The Government has committed to having a vote in both Houses on the regulations before the next General Election. This marks the closing stages of the long campaign for standardised packs – a policy that has been more than 4 years in the making. [1]

On 13th February the Government published HMRC’s assessment of the potential impact standardised packaging could have on the illicit tobacco market. The report concluded that “standardised packaging would not introduce any new risks to the UK illicit market”. [2]

The move to prevent cigarettes being sold in glitzy packaging will help protect the next generation of children and young people from starting to smoke. Two thirds of current smokers started when children, and half all lifetime smokers will die from smoking related disease. [3]

In April 2012, the UK Government launched a consultation on whether to introduce standardised packaging, following a commitment in the Tobacco Control Plan for England. In July 2013, a cross Party group of peers tabled an amendment to the Children and Families Bill to give the Government powers to make Regulations on standardised packaging. On 28th November 2013 the Government announced that it would table its own amendment to the Bill (now Section 94 of the Children and Families Act 2014). This amendment was passed overwhelmingly in both the House of Lords (nem con) and House of Commons (only 24 MPs voted against). The Government also appointed the paediatrician Sir Cyril Chantler to review the public health evidence on the issue. He reported on 31st March 2014, concluding that: “I am satisfied that the body of evidence shows that standardised packaging, in conjunction with the current tobacco control regime, is very likely to lead to a modest but important reduction over time on the uptake and prevalence of smoking and thus have a positive impact on public health.” [4]

On 21st January 2015, Public Health Minister Jane Ellison MP announced that: “We will bring the regulations before Parliament in this Parliament. Should Parliament support the measure, we will be bringing the prospect of this country’s first smoke-free generation one decisive step closer.” [5]
The policy is also popular with the public. [6]

Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of health charity ASH said:

“We are now one step closer to securing standardised packaging – a measure that will dramatically reduce the appeal of smoking to children and help save thousands of lives.

We now urge the Government to set a date for the final vote on the regulations. Standard packs are backed by the public, health professionals and an overwhelming majority of MPs.

When the Regulations are passed into law, this will be the most important public health reform of this Parliament.”

ENDS

Notes and Links:

An image of what a standardised cigarette pack might look like is included in Appendix C of the Government’s consultation document:https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/standardised-packaging-of-tobacco-products-draft-regulations

[1] https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/standardised-packaging-of-tobacco-products-draft-regulations

[2] The Introduction of standardised packaging for tobacco. HMRC 12 Feb. 2015
[3] See Smoking Statistics, Action on Smoking and Health, January 2015

[4] Standardised packaging of tobacco: report of the independent review undertaken by Sir Cyril Chantler

[5] House of Commons Hansard col 344

[6] A poll on the issue by YouGov, conducted for ASH in March 2014, found that overall 64% of adults in England were in favour of standardised packaging. There was majority support across age groups, genders and social classes. This data comes from the following YouGov survey carried out for ASH. Total sample size was 10112 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between the 5th and the 14th March 2014. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all England adults (aged 18+).