Cigarette packet branding to face consultation

Cigarettes on display The government wants smokers to give up their habit

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The government is considering plans to strip all branding from cigarette packs sold in England in a bid to make smoking appear less attractive.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley told the Times the government did not work with tobacco companies as it wanted them to have "no business" in the UK.

He said 5% of 11 to 15-year-olds were regular smokers and the habit led to nearly 100,000 deaths in the UK yearly.

The government is to launch its consultation on the issue on Monday.

Vending machine ban

In a statement, Mr Lansley said: "Smoking remains one of the most significant challenges to public health.

"Each year it accounts for over 100,000 deaths in the UK and one in two long-term smokers will die prematurely from a smoking disease.

"That is why the health ministers across the UK have a responsibility to look closely at initiatives that might encourage smokers to quit and stop young people taking up smoking in the first place.

"Through the forthcoming consultation we want to hear as many views as possible about whether tobacco packing should remain unchanged, plain packaging should be adopted or a different option should be considered."

A ban on tobacco displays in large shops started earlier this month, and smaller shops will have to follow suit by 2015.

The move comes after bans on vending machine sales, increasing the age at which a person can legally buy cigarettes and the ban on smoking in public places.

'Attractive' packaging

Australia is currently the only country which has so far agreed to plain packaging.

Its ban starts at the end of this year, although it is subject to a legal challenge by manufacturers.

Start Quote

There is no reliable evidence plain packaging will reduce rates of youth smoking”

End Quote Jane Chisholm-Caunt Tobacco Manufacturers Association

Packets will be a dark olive green, after the public was asked what the least attractive colour was.

Research published in Australia has suggested that cigarette packets have increasingly become an important marketing tool as restrictions on advertising and sponsorship have been brought in.

Mr Lansley told the Times he was open-minded, but that he believed attractive packaging helped recruit smokers from a young age.

More than 300,000 children aged under 16 in England try smoking each year, according to government figures.

The consultation will also examine if plain packaging could lead to a rise in cigarette packets being sold on the black market.

Mr Lansley said the tobacco companies used certain colours to trigger memories and their brands constituted a type of advertising.

"We don't want to work in partnership with the tobacco companies because we are trying to arrive at a point where they have no business in this country," he added.

Counterfeiting 'risk'

The consultation document is expected to suggest that branded tobacco packets create "smoker identity", with certain brands seen as "cool" and "popular", the paper reported.

It is also expected to say that tobacco firms use colours and logos to boost their profits.

The Tobacco Manufacturers' Association said it "welcomed" the consultation.

But Jane Chisholm-Caunt, secretary-general of the TMA, said: "There is no reliable evidence plain packaging will reduce rates of youth smoking.

"Smoking initiation in children is actually linked to a complex range of socio-economic factors including home life, peer pressure and truancy and exclusion from school."

And she warned plain packaging would only serve to make counterfeiting cigarettes easier.

Simon Clark, director of the smokers' group Forest which runs the "Hands Off Our Packs" campaign, added: "The consultation on plain packaging threatens to be a farce.

"Andrew Lansley says he is open minded yet he clearly supports plain packaging even before the consultation has begun."

Smoking rates have fallen significantly since the link with cancer was established beyond doubt in the 1950s.

But it recent years the decline has slowed with the number of adult smokers hovering above the 21% for some time.

Ministers have promised to reduce this to 18.5% by 2015.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 778.

    Canada has 'hidden' cigarettes in cupboards and behind drapes for years. If you are 18 or older you go to a specific counter, ask for your brand and using a key they open the cupboard, get it and lock up again.

    Keep your eyes on liquor which is going the way cigarettes did. Most t.v. programs show it being used and movies add some sort of glamor to it. Of the 2, liquor is the most dangerous.

  • rate this

    Comment number 750.

    I have smoked for years and stopped a few times for some months but then failed and returned to it. I thought it was a great idea when Australia ruled to bring in plain packaging and a strong sign from a government. Yes some people may always smoke but removing packets from view and making them have the same identity is a great thing and makes them less attractive and will reduce uptake by people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 690.

    If the government really wanted to finish smoking it could do so by simply inreasing the legal age by which you can buy tobacco by 1 year every year or every 2 years for a milder approach.

  • rate this

    Comment number 685.

    I feel sorry for the shop assistants.

    Some of them have enough difficulty identifying my preferred brand of cigarretes on the shelves.

    If I'm reduced to saying 'It's the plain white packet next to the other plain white packet, just below the plain white packet you've got there' we're going to be there all day.

  • rate this

    Comment number 681.

    Even as a non smoker, i find policies such as this and hiding cigs behind locked cabinets incredibly patronising and it shows a complete lack of understanding about what it means to be an addict (see also minimum alcohol pricing). Heavy smokers are addicts, not simpletons.


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