Government presses ahead with branded tobacco packaging ban

The tobacco industry looks to have lost its fight against the introduction of plain packaging after the government announced it will press ahead with legislation to ban branded cigarette packaging from 2016.

Public health minister Jane Ellison confirmed MPs will vote on a move to plain packaging before this year’s general election. If accepted, Parliament is expected to pass legislation before the end of March.

Ellison said a move to plain packaging was a “justified response to the considerable public harm from smoking tobacco” and would ease the “current enormous financial strain it brings to the NHS.”

Having consulted on the measure for nearly three years, the government had previously stalled on proposals after intense lobbying from the tobacco industry and disputes on how successful plain packaging laws had been in Australia.

Since consultation into standard packs started in April 2012, there has been the independent Chantler review, which advised for standardised tobacco packaging, in order to reduce the appeal to children and young people, as well as a subsequent second public consultation, which drew cross-party support.

The vote before the general election now looks certain to result in a ban for branded packaging.

“Seventy-five per cent of potential Conservative, 75 per cent of Labour, 80 per cent of Liberal Democrat and 64 per cent of UKIP voters all said they backed making tobacco packs plain,” said Labour MP Ann McKechin today, who welcomed the move after previously forcing a debate on the issue in the Commons.

The vote was also welcomed by Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health, who said it would create “long-overdue pressure on the tobacco industry.”

“Standard packs mean that the tobacco industry cannot use glitzy packaging to help addict the next generation,” she said.

However, The Institute of Economic Affairs, said the ban was a “gross infringement” to marketers.

“A move to plain packaging would  be a gross infringement of the right of companies to use their trademarks and design their own packaging,” said a spokesman for the think tank.

Further tobacco controls, including larger picture health warnings on packets, are due to come into force by May 2016.

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