United Kingdom - govt wants cigarette packaging in plain brown wrappers..

Our Children Our Future
November 23, 2010 - Early this month we learned that the United Kingdom govt will weaken the cigarette point-of-sale display ban. The reason given was that Conservative/Liberal Democrat ministers accepted that it could harm small businesses and encourage black-market sales of cigarettes. United Kingdom - Disappointment - cigarette point-of-sale display ban will be weakened..

Now we find that the government is considering forcing tobacco companies to package their cigarettes in plain brown wrappers in a bid to de-glamorise smoking and stop young people taking up the habit. The health secretary, Andrew Lansley, is investigating the viability of introducing what would be one of the most radical public health measures ever implemented in the UK. Senior doctors welcomed the potential ban on colours and logos on packets and said it could prove as effective as the 2007 public smoking ban. However, ministers are likely to face a legal challenge if they go ahead.

"We have to try new approaches and take decisions to benefit the population. That's why I want to look at the idea of plain packaging," said Lansley. "The evidence is clear that packaging helps to recruit smokers, so it makes sense to consider having less attractive packaging. It's wrong that children are being attracted to smoke by glitzy designs on packets."

Lansley stressed that the need to prevent children from starting to smoke in the first place was his main motivation for taking seriously a policy which the tobacco industry fears would be hugely damaging. "We would prefer it if people did not smoke, and adults will still be able to buy cigarettes [even if plain packs come in], but children should be protected from the start," he said.

The health secretary indicated that some further restrictions on smoking are likely. They could be unveiled in his white paper on public health, which is due within days. "The levels of poor health and deaths from smoking are still far too high, and the cost to the NHS and the economy is vast. That money could be used to educate our children and treat cancer," said Lansley.

His readiness to countenance such draconian action against cigarette manufacturers drew praise and delight from leading medical organisations. "We are very pleased that the health secretary supports the plain packaging of cigarettes. There is clear evidence that young people find packaging appealing," said a spokesman for the British Medical Association. "And we know that the tobacco industry spends huge amounts on this clever marketing to enhance their brands and increase sales."

Australia is set to become the first country in the world to introduce plain packs in 2012, although tobacco manufacturers have mounted legal action to try to stop the measure. The European Union is considering a ban. (Australia - world set to follow Australian tobacco policy..)

Lansley's move is a surprise. The Conservatives opposed plain packets when Gordon Brown's Labour administration undertook a consultation on the idea. But this fresh examination may help to allay fears among medical chiefs at the direction of the coalition's public health policies after, for example, Lansley criticised Jamie Oliver's campaign to improve school lunches in England.

Reference: Cigarettes 'to be sold in plain brown packs' Tobacco companies may be forced to use unglamorous packaging in bid to stop children being attracted to smoking, Denis Campbell, health correspondent, Guardian.co.uk, 11/20/2010.

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