Scotland politics

Scottish ministers 'undeterred' in cigarette packaging plan

cigarette packets
Image caption Plain packaging measures would put an end to individual designs

The Scottish government will not be deterred in it efforts to bring in plain packaging for cigarettes, the public health minister has pledged.

Michael Matheson said he was "committed to bold action" to reduce smoking.

He criticised the "delaying tactics" of tobacco firms to prevent restrictions on their products being introduced.

It comes as the Scottish Wholesale Association claimed the introduction of plain packaging in Australia led to a growth in the illicit tobacco market.

The Scottish government is committed to bringing in legislation on plain packaging in 2014-15, although some health campaigners are disappointed it is not happening sooner.

The country was the first part of the UK to officially support standardised packaging, with ministers backing the move in March.

Speaking at the Faculty of Public Health conference, Mr Matheson said: "I am determined to see Scotland remain at the forefront of those countries committed to bold action to reduce the harm to our health caused by tobacco."

The minister said plain packaging was necessary to prevent tobacco firms attracting a new generation of smokers.

'Existing evidence'

He went on: "To build a generation free from tobacco, it is necessary to restrict the imagery and design that tobacco companies use to pull in another generation to use these addictive and lethal products."

Australia was the first country to require all tobacco products to be sold in plain packaging, and Mr Matheson said he was "very encouraged" by early findings on the impact of the policy.

"These add to and support the wealth of existing evidence which consistently shows that plain packaging would reduce the appeal of tobacco products to consumers," he said.

The public health minister said the government would continue to take account of any new evidence emerging from Australia as it moved toward a consultation on the next steps in Scotland in the New Year.

And he criticised tobacco companies for trying to prevent restrictions on the sale of their products.

Imperial Tobacco challenged the Scottish government's decision to ban the display of tobacco products but it was dismissed by the UK Supreme Court.

Mr Matheson said: "We have seen all around the world that the tobacco industry does not like governments taking decisive action to protect people from the harms caused by the products they produce.

"We will not be deterred by the tobacco industry. They have failed before in challenging the Scottish Parliament's ability to legislate on public health, as we saw in the Supreme Court's decision to dismiss Imperial Tobacco's challenge on the tobacco display ban.

"We must also hold the tobacco industry to account. They have sheltered behind smokers and retailers for too long, while we know that every year children are taking up tobacco use and falling into addiction."

Mr Matheson's speech came as the Scottish Wholesale Association (SWA), the trade body representing food and drink wholesalers, highlighted a new report which suggested a rise in the illicit tobacco market in Australia, following the introduction of plain cigarette packets there last December.

The SWA said the KMPG report, entitled Illicit Tobacco in Australia, provided "compelling early evidence" that plain packages encouraged illicit trade and damaged legitimate sellers.

Kate Salmon, SWA executive director, said: "The report states that Australia's illegal tobacco market has risen to around 13% since the introduction of plain packaging just under a year ago, costing the Australian government up to one million Australian dollars in lost excise revenue.

"This is disturbing and should set alarm bells ringing that the introduction of plain packaging in Scotland will harm wholesalers and their retail customers by further benefiting the black market - and do nothing to encourage people to reduce their consumption of cigarettes and tobacco."

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