Major Win for Public Health as Government Goes Ahead With Standard Packs Legislation
Action on Smoking and Health has warmly welcomed today’s announcement that the Government is to introduce legislation on the standardised (“plain”) packaging of cigarettes and tobacco products. ASH Chief Executive Deborah Arnott said that:
“Everyone who cares about the health of children and about reducing the toll of deaths and disease caused by smoking should welcome this announcement. The Government deserves credit for listening to public health experts and proceeding with legislation. We are absolutely delighted.”
• The Government has said that it will introduce an amendment to the Children and Families Bill, now in its House of Lords Committee Stage. The amendment will give the Secretary of State the power to introduce standardised packaging through regulations (secondary legislation). Before any regulations are introduced there will be a review of the public health evidence on standardised packaging, led by Sir Cyril Chantler, who is expected to report by March 2014.
• The Government was facing defeat in the House of Lords because a cross Party and crossbench coalition had tabled an amendment to the Children and Families Bill on standardised packaging. The amendment was moved by Baroness Finlay (crossbench), Lord Faulkner (Labour), Baroness Tyler (Liberal Democrat), and Lord McColl (Conservative). Tobacco control policy has increasingly been seen as a cross-Party issue since legislation ending smoking in enclosed public places was passed in 2006 by a Free Vote in both Houses. 
• Standardised packaging is NOT “plain”: images of white packs to illustrate this story are seriously misleading. Standardised packs would in fact be highly designed to show strong visual and printed health warnings. Images of Australian standardised packs can be found here: http://www.ashaust.org.au/lv3/action_plainpack.htm. Standardised packaging would remove the attractive promotional aspects of existing tobacco packaging and require that the appearance of all tobacco packs be uniform.
• Sunday 1st December 2013 marks the first anniversary of the implementation of standardised tobacco packaging in Australia. The impact on both adults and young people in Australia has been positive. 
• The Scottish Government has said that it will legislate on standardised packaging in 2014, as has the Republic of Ireland. The Welsh Government and the Northern Ireland Health Minister have also said they wish to introduce standardised packaging in their jurisdictions. 
• Standardised packaging is popular with the public. A poll on the issue by YouGov, conducted for ASH in February 2013, found that overall 64% of adults in Great Britain were in favour of standardised packaging. A further poll by YouGov conducted in March showed support for the policy from 62% of those intending to vote Conservative, 63% of Labour and 60% of Liberal Democrats. There was majority support across all ages, genders and social classes. 
• There is no good reason to think that standardised packaging would increase illicit trade (tobacco smuggling and counterfeit), despite claims from the tobacco industry. All the key security features on existing packs of cigarettes would also be present on standardised packs (including coded numbering and covert anti-counterfeit marks). An industry commissioned report by consultancy KPMG published in November 2013 claims to show an increase in illicit trade in Australia since the introduction of standardised packs.  However, a critique of this study by Quit Victoria found that the findings were likely to be exaggerated as a result of the methodology used.  Andrew Leggett, Deputy Director for Tobacco and Alcohol Strategy at HM Revenue and Customs has said that “We’re very doubtful that it would have a material effect [on counterfeiting and the illicit trade in tobacco]”. 
Notes and Links:
 A version of the cross-Party amendment was debated in the House of Lords during the Committee Stage of the Children and Families Bill. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201314/ldhansrd/text/131120-gc0001.htm#131120100000111
 See, for example, Wakefield M et al (2013); Introduction effects of the Australia plain packaging policy on adult smokers: a cross-sectional study; BMJ Open 2013;3:e003175 doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2013-003175; Available at: http://www.bmjopen.bmj.com/lookup/doi/10.1136/bmjopen-2013-003175
 Empowering Scotland: The Government’s Programme for Scotland 2013-14; page 67
 The first poll total sample size was 12171 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 1st and 19th February 2013. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+). The second poll was conducted on the 10th and 11th March 2013 showing the views of the public by which party they supported. The poll used a representative sample of 1684 adults. Respondents were shown what a standard pack could look like, including larger health warnings as in Australia. The second YouGov poll, conducted on the 10th and 11th March 2013, revealed the views of the public by which party they support. Support by voting intention was 62% of those intending to vote Conservative, 63% of Labour and 60% of Liberal Democrats. There was majority support across all ages, genders and social classes. This was a representative sample of 1684 adults. Respondents were shown what a standard pack could look like, including larger health warnings as in Australia and envisaged under the revised EU Tobacco Products Directive.
 KPMG LLP. Illicit tobacco in Australia. 2013 half year report October 2013. Available at http://www.bata.com.au/group/sites/BAT_7WYKG8.nsf/vwPagesWebLive/DO9879X3?opendocument&SKN=1
 Quit Victoria. Analysis of KPMG LLP report on use of illicit tobacco in Australia. 11 Nov. 2013 http://www.cancervic.org.au/plainfacts/browse.asp?ContainerID=plainfacts-news#yet-more-alarmist-data-illicit-tobacco
. Oral evidence to the House of Lords European Union Sub Committee (Home Affairs) on 24th July 2013.