United Kingdom - govt cabinet business secretary has reservations about new anti-smoking strategy.

December 19, 2009 - On December 13th it was reported that Lord Peter Mandelson, the Business Secretary, still had reservations over some of the measures in the aggressive new anti-smoking campaign.

Now we find that
a challenge by Lord Mandelson has delayed the Government's new anti-smoking strategy.

Peter Mandelson and to the right Andy Burnham..
Radical plans, including long-term proposals to outlaw eye-catching packaging for cigarettes, were expected in a policy paper this week. However, the paper has now been put back until the New Year while discussions continue between Business Secretary Lord Mandelson and Health Secretary Andy Burnham. (Her Majesty's Government - the Cabinet)

Plain packaging is anathema (vehement denunciation) to tobacco giants who spend ­billions developing glossy brands that rely on distinctive colours and labels, particularly for lucrative premium brands. Tobacco Journal has claimed the proposals “could threaten profitability in the tobacco industry”.

Lord Mandelson, while no fan of the tobacco industry, sees his role as protecting business from unnecessary or ill-considered regulations, ­particularly in a recession. “There is some push-back from the Department for Business on this,” said a Whitehall source. “It is not a row but they are asking questions about whether this move is the right way forward. “The questions cover what the effect would be on the industry, are there any alternatives and have they been fully explored?”

A source close to Mr Burnham confirmed the smoking strategy had been delayed and said there were “cordial discussions” with Lord Mandelson's department.

It is understood the revised strategy will contain references to the plain packaging plan but no commitment to carry it out.

A source said Mr Burnham's department had initially wanted to go further and circulated firm proposals to other departments for comment.

Anti-smoking campaigners believe plain packets would sink premium brands and marketing designed to lure new smokers.

Deborah Arnott, of anti-smoking lobby group ASH, said: “We are deeply disappointed that tobacco industry pressure has stopped the Government from taking the logical next step, of getting rid of the brightly coloured branding and specialised packaging which undermines the health warnings on the packs.”

Smoking has fallen by a quarter in adults and nearly a half in young people over the past 10 years but there is concern at the number of teenage girls taking up the habit.

Video on the life and times Peter Mandelson.., 7 1/2 minutes, guardian.co.uk, 9/29/2009.

Reference: Lord Mandelson stubs out plans for plain cigarette packets, London Evening Standard, 12/18/2009.
United Kingdom, UK, Britain, British Isles, Northern Ireland

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