Lords Vote for Standardised Cigarette Packs

Monday 16 March 2015

Introduction Expected 20th May 2016

The tobacco industry suffered a “decisive” political defeat today, as the House of Lords joined the House of Commons in voting for the standardised (“plain”) packaging of cigarettes and other tobacco products. The regulations under the Children and Families Act were passed without a division. The UK now joins Australia and the Republic of Ireland in introducing the new policy. Standardised (“plain”) packaging will be introduced at the same time as the EU Tobacco Products Directive measures on packaging and labelling, on 20th May 2016. [1] Standardised 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.

The tobacco industry has threatened national and international legal action against the UK Government, but these legal challenges are considered likely to fail. The tobacco industry has waged an expensive but unsuccessful legal campaign against the Australian legislation. In August 2012, Australia’s High Court dismissed constitutional challenges brought by tobacco companies, awarding costs in favour of the Australian Government. The industry is encouraging further challenges from Governments through the World Trade Organisation and under the Australia – Hong Kong Bilateral Investment Treaty, but these are also considered likely to fail. [2]

Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of health charity ASH said:

“This is a decisive moment in the long and patient struggle to reduce, and then end, the horrors that the tobacco industry has brought to our country and to the rest of the world. Today we should remember the millions of people who have died too young from diseases caused by smoking, and the families and friends they left behind. And we should resolve for good and all that this misery must not be inherited by our children.”



[1] Standardised Packaging of Tobacco Products Regulations 2015
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

[2] UK legal opinion, and failed tobacco industry case in Australia.
Also see an opinion on international legal challenge.