Poll: Should cigarettes be sold in plain packaging?

Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Plain packaging on cigarettes has moved a step closer after the government decided to push ahead with a new tobacco pack law before the general election.

In an unusual move, Public Health Minister Jane Ellison revealed the Government would table regulations to enforce standardised packaging in England by May 2016.

The measures are expected to pass despite Conservative objections after MPs were granted a free vote on the issue.

Further regulations banning smoking in private cars carrying children will be enforced from October this year if signed off by Parliament.

Dr Penny Woods, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, said: 'The benefits of standardised packaging were comprehensively laid out, and the alleged risks comprehensively dismissed, in last year's independent review commissioned by the Government.

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'Doing so would mark a huge victory for public health, and a momentous step towards saving some of the 200,000 young people who currently take up this deadly habit each year.'

Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK's chief executive, said: 'We applaud the Government for taking this big step towards getting plain, standardised cigarette packs on the shelves and protecting children from tobacco marketing.

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'Two-thirds of smokers start before the age 18, beginning an addiction which will kill half of them if they become long-term smokers.

'By stripping cigarette packs of their marketing features, we can reduce the number of young people lured into an addiction, the products of which are death and disease.'

But the move was immediately criticised by business groups.

Christopher Snowdon, director of lifestyle economics at the Institute of Economic Affairs, said: 'This is a gross infringement of the right of companies to use their trademarks and design their own packaging.

'There is no need to wonder what will happen next - we need only look at Australia where the black market has grown and youth smoking has risen. To pursue this grandstanding policy in spite of the Australian experience is sheer negligence.'

Jonathan Isaby, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: 'This legislation could end up being remembered as a Smugglers' Charter.'

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