In Process: UK - Plain tobacco packaging still on agenda..

October 16, 2009 - Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) has welcomed a government commitment to keep plain tobacco packaging under review, following the announcement that cigarette displays will be removed from shops.

In a statement Ash said that prohibiting retail display is only half the battle and instead tobacco packaging should be standardised "so all attractive and promotional aspects are removed, save the brand name".

The body added that tobacco packaging, or "the silent salesman" as it is known in the industry, is even more important now that advertising, promotion and sponsorship is banned.

The statement follows the announcement today (9 December) by health secretary Alan Johnson that plans are in place to remove cigarette displays from shops and to prevent underage access to tobacco vending machines.

Regulations will come into force for larger retailers from October 2011 and not until 2013 for smaller businesses.

The government said that there needs to be more investigation into plain packaging and committed to keeping this under review to find out more before further action is taken.

Chris Ogden, chief executive of the Tobacco Manufacturer's Association (TMA) warned that a display ban could increase counterfeiting and illegal trade and added that there are more effective alternatives to prevent under 18s from accessing cigarettes.

"Proof of age schemes should be better supported, the law of underage sales more strongly enforced and the government should crack down on illegal trade in tobacco," Ogden added.

The TMA has warned that plain packaging could facilitate counterfeiting and potentially breach brands' intellectual property rights.

The Department of Health's consultation on the future of tobacco control elicited a strong response with over 96,000 responses.