Cigarette packaging: Ministers launch fresh review

The government is to announce an independent review of cigarette packaging in England amid calls for action to discourage young smokers.

David Cameron appeared to distance himself from plain packaging in July, saying further evidence was needed to show whether it would be effective.

But No 10 sources say the issue would be looked at again and the government was “open-minded” about what to do.

Labour and health campaigners have called for plain packaging.

The government has never officially ruled this out, saying previously that it wanted to see the results of a pilot in Australia – the first country to introduce it – before deciding whether to follow suit.

The Times, which first reported the story, said the review would report in March and could lead to plain packages on English shelves before the 2015 election.

The BBC understands it will be lead by an eminent paediatrician and will focus on the experience in Australia.

The BBC’s political correspondent, Iain Watson, said ministers would also approve enabling legislation to allow them to sanction plain packaging “very quickly” if the evidence stacked up.

The Times said a study conducted in Australia found that smokers using standardised plain brown packets were 81% more likely to consider quitting.

Labour, who have sought to link Conservative election chief Lynton Crosby’s work as a consultant for the tobacco industry to delays in the policy, are likely to describe the move as a u-turn.

The Department of Health held a consultation in 2012 on plans which would have required manufacturers to use standardised packets and fonts and put prominent, graphic warnings on their products.

Health campaigners say packaging is a “key tool” for the industry to get new customers but manufacturers say plain packets will increase counterfeiting and the focus must be on reducing under-age smoking.

The Scottish government has said it is “still committed” to introducing plain packaging.



Heather Johnson

 – Author of this post.

Heather is the lead writer of BioConfidence from Cambridge, Massachusets