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Parliament backs plain packaging. Big tobacco fights back.



Despite securing the overwhelming support of the British people and Members of Parliament in a vote yesterday, big tobacco is looking to fight the introduction of plain or standardised packaging.

Yesterday in Parliament 367 MPS voted for plain or standardised packaging with 113 against. This follows a similar vote this year in Irish Republic and in 2012 in Australia. The UK government started consultation in 2012 after announcing it was going to look into the option in 2011. In the same year Cancer Council Australia released a review of the evidence that supported the introduction of plain packaging to reduce uptake by children. They reviewed 24 peer-reviewed studies from the previous twenty years. This review suggested that packaging has an important role in encouraging youth to try cigarettes.

In January Cancer Research UK (CRUK) released the survey figures revealing that 72% of people questioned were in support of plain packaging (this found favour across parties: 75% of both prospective Conservative and Labour voters, 80% of Liberal Democrats and 64% of UKIP supporters supported the measure). Only 15% were opposed to the measure.

The new packaging is supposed to be less appealing and include darker colours such as olive green rather than white.

10 million people in the UK smoke and 200,000 children 11-15 start smoking each year. The source of this information campaign group, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), called it the “most important public health reform of this Parliament“.

In contrast the Tobacco Manufacturer’s Association has argued there is a “complete lack of evidence that the policy will work“. Which is curious considering how hard they’ve been fighting it. British American Tobacco (BAT), Imperial Tobacco and Japan Tobacco International (JTI), have threatened legal action against the move which they believe is unlawful.

Philip Morris corporate affairs director James Barge said the, “decision by the UK Government to arbitrarily ban the use of tobacco-related trademarks is an irrational and unnecessary attack on private property that vilifies products that well informed adults choose to buy.”

A history of smoking legislation in the UK smoking (source BBC)

– 1965: Government bans cigarette advertising on television

– 1971: Ministers announce health warnings to be carried on all cigarette packets

– 1984: Smoking banned on London underground trains

– 2002: Legislation passed banning tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship

– 2005: Smoking banned on all trains

– 2006: A ban on smoking in public places, including bars and restaurants, comes into effect in Scotland

– 2007: England, Wales and Northern Ireland introduce their own bans on smoking in public places – supported by 80% of people questioned in 2007

– 2008: Picture health warnings introduced on cigarette packets

– 2012: Large shops are banned from displaying cigarettes. Smaller shops to follow suit in 2015

– 2015: MPs vote in favour of banning smoking in cars where children are present

– 2015: MPs vote in favour of standardised packaging

The introduction of plain packaging will follow a final approval vote in the House of Lords.

Photo: Aldon Scott McLeod via Freeimages

Further reading:

Why tobacco is bad for everyone

Boeing to develop sustainable biofuel from tobacco plants

Labour Party Conference: Ed Miliband promises to increase tax on big tobacco to fund NHS

Not just unethical, tobacco is a financially unsustainable investment