This morning, the BBC reported that the UK Government are to put plans to introduce standardised packs on hold.
The story read:
The government is to postpone its plans to introduce standardised plain packaging for cigarettes in the UK. Ministers are expected to tell MPs that a decision on the policy has been formally delayed so that more time can be spent examining how similar plans have worked in Australia.
The aim of such packaging is to discourage young people from smoking by making the packets less attractive.
Cancer Research UK said the government had chosen tobacco profits over health.
The packets would all be the same colour, with the same font and carry a prominent graphic warning.
Ministers were keen to go ahead with the proposal after the Department of Health held a consultation last year.
Australia was the first country in the world to introduce such packaging when it did so in December 2012.
The only concession in Australia to the tobacco companies is their name and the name of the brand variant in small print at the bottom of the box.
Cancer Research UK chief executive Dr Harpal Kumar said the decision would cost lives.
He said 200,000 children were "lured" into starting smoking in the UK every year
"The government had a choice: protect children from an addiction that kills 100,000 people in the UK every year or protect tobacco industry profits," he added.
Further comment from leading health professionals added:
Dr Hilary Cass, President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health said:
“We are extremely disappointed that the Government has backed down from taking this essential step to protect children’s health. Children and teenagers are most impressionable to branding and the attractive packaging used by the tobacco industry is no exception. It’s therefore not surprising that two thirds of today's smoking population confirm they took-up the habit at a young age. Standardised packaging is urgently needed to cut smoking uptake and prevent smoking-related deaths.”
Fiona Andrews, director of Smokefree South West, said:
“We are hugely disappointed that the opportunity has not been taken to signal that first step towards the introduction of ‘plain’, standardised packaging of tobacco products.
“Currently in the UK there are no restrictions to the way tobacco multinationals are allowed to promote their brands through packaging. In the South West alone, 45 children start smoking every day. Introducing standardised packs is about protecting our children and adding another effective measure to protect them from sophisticated tobacco marketing and to neutralise the current use of attractive packaging to recruit the next generation of children into a lifetime of addiction.
“Smokefree South West will continue to work alongside major charities such as CRUK, BHF and Royal Colleges of Physicians and Nursing and other partners within the Smokefree Action Coalition (SFAC) in their efforts to make the case for fast track introduction of standardised tobacco packaging.”
Dr Hilary Emery, Chief Executive of the National Children’s Bureau said:
“The introduction of standardised packaging for cigarettes and tobacco products would be an important step in cutting the number of children who start smoking every year. Children in poorer communities, and in vulnerable groups such as those in care, are particularly likely to become smokers. That government is stepping back from this change is a sad day for child protection and child health. We believe that Parliament should have the chance to vote on the issue as soon as possible”.
Dr Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK's chief executive, said:
"The Government has stalled in the face of strong evidence and instead reacted to myths perpetuated by the tobacco industry, an industry well-known for suppressing the truth about its lethal products. The Government had a choice: protect children from an addiction that kills 100,000 people in the UK every year or protect tobacco industry profits. The Government has made the wrong choice, it is unacceptable to stand by and watch as these lives are lost. There is strong public support for standard packs; we urge the Government to let Parliament decide, without further delay.”
Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of Action on Smoking and Health, said:
“There is good evidence of overwhelming public support for standardised tobacco packaging. And yet the Prime Minister and the Health Secretary have tamely surrendered to the tobacco industry on the issue. This policy is not some barnacle on the ship of state; it is badly needed to protect public health, and children’s health in particular. We believe that there is a clear majority in both Houses of Parliament for the policy. If the Government has lost its nerve, let Parliament decide on a free vote.”