Britain on track to be first European country to put tobacco products in plain packs

Wednesday 09 March 2011

ASH welcomes the new Tobacco Plan, which sets concrete ambitions for a reduction in smoking amongst adults, children and pregnant women. Despite heavy lobbying by the tobacco industry the Government has refused to repeal the legislation to put tobacco out of sight, although a delay in implementation of 6 months for large shops and 18 months for small shops was announced today.

ASH congratulates the Government for committing to consult this year on putting tobacco products in plain packaging. This means that the UK is in line to be the first European country to require standardised plain packaging of tobacco products, following the example set by Australia.[1] The government has proved its commitment to putting children’s health before tobacco industry profits.

Research shows that, compared to current branding, plain packaging for tobacco products reduces false beliefs about the relative harm of tobacco products, is less attractive, especially to young people and improves the effectiveness of health warnings. [2] Furthermore, new polling released today by ASH [3] shows that this evidence increases public support for plain packaging. For example, 80% of respondents said they would support plain packaging if there was evidence to show that plain packs were less attractive to children.

Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of ASH said:

“Although disappointed at the delay we’re delighted that the Government has refused to cave in to tobacco industry lobbying for the repeal of the tobacco display legislation. At its heart the new Tobacco Plan builds on the strategy put in place by the previous Government. This Plan is proof that there is now a strong cross-party political consensus that tough action to tackle smoking is the primary public health priority and a strong signal to Council Health and Wellbeing Boards that tackling smoking needs to be top of their agenda.

“We are delighted that this Government is putting us on track to be the first European country tobacco to put tobacco in plain packs. This is an essential next step in protecting young people from the insidious marketing tactics of the tobacco industry. Our research shows that this measure will have widespread public support.”


Notes and links:

Healthy Lives, Healthy People: A Tobacco Control Plan for England

[1] The Australian government has already made a commitment to introduce plain packaging which will make it the first country to do so. In their report “Taking Preventative Action” the Australian Government stated: “Plain packaging will:
• increase the noticeability, recall and impact of health warning messages;
• reduce the ability of packaging to mislead consumers to believe that some products may be less harmful than others;
• reduce the attractiveness of the tobacco product, for both adults and children; and
• reduce the appeal and desirability of smoking generally.”
Australia: The healthiest country by 2020. Technical Report 2, Tobacco control in Australia making smoking history. Commonwealth of Australia 2009

[2] Goldberg ME, Liefeld J, Madill J, et al. The effect of plain packaging on response to health warnings. Am J Public Health 1999;89:1434–5
Beede P, Lawson R. The effect of plain packages on the perception of cigarette health warnings. Public Health 1992;106: 315–22.
Hammond D, Dockrell M, Arnott D, Lee A, McNeill A. Cigarette pack design and perceptions of risk among UK adults and youth Eur J Public Health. 2009 Dec;19(6):631-7.
Hammond D, Parkinson C. The impact of cigarette package design on perceptions of risk J Public Health (Oxf). 2009 Sep;31(3):345-53

[3] A YouGov poll commissioned by ASH found that almost two thirds (64%) of the public would support plain packaging if there was evidence that plain packaging was less likely to give the false impression that one type of cigarette is safer than another . Three-quarters of respondents (75%) would support plain packaging if plain packs made health warnings more effective. Four fifths (80%) would support plain packaging if plain packs were found to be less attractive to children and young people than branded packs. The poll was a representative sample of 2,328 adults and was carried out by YouGov for ASH. Fieldwork was undertaken between 29th October – 1st November 2010. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).
The results of the survey can be downloaded at