Public Health Minister Jane Ellison awarded WHO medal

Friday 27 May 2016

Public Health Minister Jane Ellison MP has been awarded the prestigious WHO Director-General Special Award to mark World No Tobacco Day. The award recognises her political leadership and determination in overseeing the introduction of a major public health reform, standardised ‘plain’ packaging of tobacco, and her ongoing commitment to tobacco control.

The four major tobacco transnationals spent millions of pounds campaigning against the introduction of standardised ‘plain’ packaging in the UK, both directly, for example by running advertising campaigns, and indirectly, for example by funding front groups such as FOREST, to campaign against the measure. Their legal challenge to the legislation met with a humiliating defeat in the High Court just one day before the measure was implemented in the UK on 20th May 2016. [1]

In response to the court judgement the Public Health Minister said, “First and foremost, this is a victory for a generation that will grow up smoke-free. Standardised packaging will reduce smoking rates and save lives, which will always be a top priority for this Government. We will never allow the tobacco industry to dictate our policies.” [2]

The landmark judgement in the case will help other countries looking to introduce the policy: France and the Republic of Ireland have already passed legislation (which France implemented the same day as the UK) and other countries are expected to follow soon, including Canada, Hungary, Norway and Slovenia. [3]

The policy came into effect shortly before World No Tobacco Day which is celebrated annually on 31st May. This year’s theme Get ready for plain packaging calls on nations across the world to protect children from tobacco by removing the colourful attractive and promotional elements from tobacco packaging.

Responding to the Minister’s award, Deborah Arnott, chief executive of ASH, said:

“Despite relentless tobacco industry lobbying the Public Health Minister made sure that the government proceeded with the introduction of standardised ‘plain’ packaging of cigarettes. Her commitment to tackling the harm caused by tobacco is unquestionable and we are delighted that her work has been recognised by the World Health Organisation.”


Notes and Links


[1] Royal Courts of Justice, Tobacco Industry V the Secretary of State for Health judgement, May 2016
[2] BBC, Tobacco laws: Bid to overturn packaging rules dismissed, 19 May 2016
[3] See Plain Packaging – International Overview for a summary. Slovenia notified the European Commission of draft legislation to require plain packaging on 16th March 2016.