Out of Queen's Speech but not 'abandoned'

Wednesday, 8 May 2013  at 12:24

Although legislation to introduce plain , standardised packs did not make it into this year's Queen's Speech, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has told Radio 4's Today Programme that “Just because something is not in the Queen’s Speech does not mean the Government can’t bring it forward as law". 

London 24 went onto state:

Not including measures aimed at discouraging people from smoking in today’s Queen’s Speech does not mean they have been abandoned, the health secretary has said.

The measure has been the subject of extensive consultation and appeared to have ministerial backing but has been stalled amid apparent splits within the Cabinet.

But health secretary Jeremy Hunt insisted that no final decisions had been taken.

“On plain paper packaging, if we do it we will be the first country in Europe, the second country in the world - Australia only introduced it in January” Mr Hunt said.

“I want to make sure we do the job properly so I’ve said I will take the time needed.”

The Today Programme's John Humphrys quizzed Hunt on the exclusion of plain packaging legislation from this year's Queen's Speech. With reference to the government taking this decision because they are "scared" of how UKIP and their leader Nigel Farage may react, Hunt replied "we haven't made our decision and when we have, we shall see if Mr Farage has a smile on his face".

To listen to Radio 4's Today programme, click here. The piece can be heard from 1.13.00 onward.

Aside from Mr Hunt's earlier remarks, the exclusion of plain packs from this year's Queen's Speech has produced further comment, notably from the Royal College of Physicians, the Association of Public Health and Action on Smoking and Health (ASH).

The President of the Royal College of Physicians, Sir Richard Thompson said that the exclusion was a “major lost opportunity to help protect children from starting to smoke. Evidence shows that plain packaging is less attractive to young people. In the UK, two thirds of regular smokers started smoking before the age of 18; two fifths before the age of 16. Only around half will manage to stop smoking during their lifetime.  We need to take every opportunity to reduce the amount of deaths and disease in later life by preventing children from starting to smoke now.”

Dr Janet Atherton, President of the Association of Directors of Public Health commented that: “Tobacco packaging is clearly targeted at young people, and standardised packs would provide one less reason for them to start smoking.  There has been an extensive public consultation on this issue – this should not be buried – the public has a right to expect that it should be properly debated in Parliament.”      

Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of health charity ASH said:“Every day nearly 570 young people start smoking, and many will go on to die early from smoking-related disease. Smoking is by far the biggest cause of preventable premature death, and the poorest communities suffer worst. It is clear that a majority of MPs and peers as well as the general public support standard packs.”

This year's Queen's Speech can be viewed via the BBC, here
* This number reflects the total amount of people who have signed up to support the plain packaging of tobacco products, via the Plain Packs Protect Partnership (logos below), British Heart Foundation and Cancer Research UK websites.
Supporters Smoke Free South West Ulster Cancer Foundation ash Ash Scotland Ash Wales British Heart Foundation Cancer Research UK Chartered Institute of Environmental Health Cut Films Faculty of Public Health Fresh Smoke Free North East National Heart Forum NCSCT BTS - Stop Smoking Champions The Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation Royal College of Physicians TCC Tobacco Free Future Trading Standards Partnership South West Smoke Free Lincs - Promoting a tobacco free life