Public Health Lobby Delighted at Government Announcement on Standard Cigarette Packs

Thursday 22 January 2015

Official image of the future standardised pack

What the packs will look like (hires)

Public health experts have given a very warm welcome to the Government announcement that it will put Regulations on the standardised “plain” packaging of cigarettes and other tobacco products to a vote in Parliament before the General Election. 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 of all lifetime smokers will die from smoking related disease. [1]

ASH believes that there is a strong majority in both Houses of Parliament for the Regulations.
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 policy is also popular with the public. [2]

Ministers have resisted strong lobbying from the tobacco industry [3] and a small minority of MPs. Claims have been made that standardised packaging will lead to more illicit tobacco – although all the key security features on current packaging will be included on standard packs. The tobacco industry has also made a series of false or grossly misleading claims about the effect of standard packs in Australia – the first country in the world to introduce the policy. The Australian Government has reported that the number of cigarettes bought per person has in fact fallen. Total consumption of cigarettes and tobacco in the first quarter of 2014 was the lowest ever, and the Australian “National Drug Strategy Household Survey” for 2013/14 showed that the proportion of daily smokers aged 14 years or older in Australia fell from 16.6% in 2007 to 12.8% in 2013. [4]

Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of health charity ASH said:

“We are delighted that the government has resisted tobacco industry pressure and plans to pass the regulations that will bring standardised “plain” packaging into effect in this parliament. Every day hundreds of children start to smoke. Standard packs mean that the tobacco industry cannot use glitzy packaging to help addict the next generation. Standard packs are backed by the public, health professionals and an overwhelming majority of MPs. They have the potential to save many thousands of lives.

We won’t be taking anything for granted in the run-up to the final vote, but we think that the great majority of MPs and Peers will vote for the Regulations. If the Regulations are indeed passed into law, this will be the most important public health reform of this Parliament. We are very grateful to the MPs, peers, health professionals and members of the public who have worked so hard for this victory.”


Notes and Links:

[1] See Smoking Statistics, Action on Smoking and Health, January 2015

[2] 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+).

[3] For example, the tobacco multinational JTI spent at least £2 million on advertising against standardised packaging, and produced a series of six national newspaper advertisements, all of which were subsequently ruled misleading by the Advertising Standards Authority.

[4] Tobacco Key Facts and Figures, Australian Department of Health, updated 10th December 2014