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An example selection of currently available tobacco packs

We’re extremely pleased to announce that shiny, brightly coloured cigarette packs are closer to becoming a thing of the past.

Yesterday evening MPs in the House of Commons overwhelmingly agreed that they want to see standardised packaging for tobacco products in the UK.

We’ve been calling for the chance to let Parliament decide and now, given the chance, both Houses have been decisive: at last night’s vote on the Children and Families Bill standard packs were supported by 453 MPs, with only 24 opposed.

What next?

Standardised packs won’t be brought in overnight. There’s still more to do but we’re within touching distance of a major victory for public health.

The next step – which will happen by March 21 – is for the Queen to give the Royal Assent to allow the bill to be made law.

But that’s not the end.

The government is also awaiting the outcome of an Independent Review of the public health evidence for standardised packaging, due to report in March.

The government will then look at the conclusions of the review and decide if it’s satisfied that standard packs will have a positive health impact for under-18s and what to do next. The review is also considering the wider issues of standard packs, such as the impact on illegal tobacco. (We’ve written before that standard packs won’t encourage smuggling.)

The final hurdle – regulations

If the government decides to press on, regulations would then be drawn up and voted on by both the House of Lords and House of Commons. This process is likely to take quite a few months.

We don’t know exactly how long this could take, but we want to see the regulations (also known as secondary legislation) finalised by the General Election, meaning we could have standard packs on the shelves in 2015-16.

A comprehensive tobacco control programme

Standard packaging was not the only amendment to be considered on Monday. We’re delighted the bill will also include:

  • Powers to introduce regulations to prohibit the sale of nicotine products (i.e. e-cigarettes) to persons under 18 – making it an offence to do so.
  • An amendment to make the purchase of tobacco etc. on behalf of people under 18 an offence (also known as “proxy purchasing”).
  • Powers to introduce regulations to make smoking in a private vehicle where minors are present (more usually known as “smoking in cars with children”) an offence.

Almost there

When Australia became the first country in the world to introduce standard packs in December 2012, the Director General of the World Health Organisation (WHO) called for standard packs to become a ‘success of the world’.

For our public health ambitions, this marks a moment in which the UK is seen globally as a champion of tobacco control and an example of what bold action can be taken to prevent the burden of disease for future generations.

With the WHO warning of a cancer ‘tidal wave’, action on prevention is a must, not an option – the evidence for standardised packaging to reduce the appeal of the leading cause of preventable death is clear.

It isn’t over yet but yesterday’s success gives us a good excuse to say a big thank you to all our supporters – outside and inside Parliament – who have made this progress possible.

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Comments

Oz March 6, 2014

RobW – Think your argument is flawed. It is true that detection of smuggled cigarettes in Australia has increased BUT it was on the increase BEFORE plain packaging was introduced so we can’t say the introduction of plain packaging caused the increase. Plain packaging was introduced in Dec 2012, the figures for 2010-2011 were 82 million but the following year 2011-2012 that increased to 141 million which cannot be attributed to plain packaging seeing as it was introduced then.

RobW March 4, 2014

Many have highlighted the danger of illicit tobacco smuggling increasing due to the introduction of plain packs.

Despite your views that plain packs do not increase smuggling, initial Austrailan experience now confirms this as a real risk – an increase from 82 million smuggled cigarrettes to 200 million since plain packs were introduced, it may seem like common sense but it can hardly be viewed as a sensible approach it it increases the amount of smuggled tobacco. ( p90 – http://www.customs.gov.au/webdata/resources/files/ACBPSAnnualReport2012-13.pdf )

Another counterproductive policy ( although a politically correct one ) supported by CRUK that will result in MORE deaths, not less. It is really time that CRUK started determining their policy based on what will save the most lives rather than what will keep Big P happy.

Chris Robbins February 26, 2014

I am extremely pleased that we are winning the battle on cigarette packaging. Very well done to you for your efforts

Graham Edwards February 20, 2014

I’m with you all the way. Reforms of this kind have always had to be fought for because the opposition to them is rich, powerful and totally cynical. Future historians will write with bewilderment at the length of time such necessary public health reforms took and no doubt speculate why governments were so timid and halting in their responses to this kind of public health issue.

anthony scott February 20, 2014

As an ex smoker who hates the smell as well as the health consequences,you have my full support to get cigarettes banned completely, this is a positive start.