Together we will beat cancer


An example selection of currently available tobacco packs

The 2010 film The King’s Speech was a national triumph. So at Cancer Research UK we’re dismayed to have to report that we’re not exactly rolling out the red carpet for yesterday’s Queen’s Speech.

In fact, quite the opposite.

The Queen’s Speech – which outlined the Government’s focus for the next year – has, shockingly, left plans to put tobacco products in plain, standardised packaging, on the cutting room floor.

The government has thus failed to deliver on a policy that would help protect children from a product that has no sJoin our Plain Packaging Campaignafe level of consumption.

So today, nine months since its consultation closed in August 2012, we’re left hanging, still waiting for the government to make a clear statement of its intentions.

In that time more than 150,000 children have started smoking – the beginning of an addiction that kills half its long-term users.

In light of this disappointing decision, we wanted to outline, clearly and simply, which organisations support this measure. Also we thought it worth exposing the vested interests of its opponents. This is all worth knowing, because this fight isn’t over; this is not “The End”.

A quick recap

Along with scores of other health organisations, Cancer Research UK has been campaigning for new laws to put all tobacco products in plain, standardised packs.

This isn’t about discouraging current smokers. It’s about discouraging children from starting – something the evidence shows standard packs will be effective in doing. This is because tobacco packs are the last remaining ‘public space’ left for the tobacco industry to advertise their brands.

As you might expect, the tobacco industry has vehemently opposed this idea – opposition that flies in the face of widespread support from across society.

On the one hand…

Protecting the public health of its citizens should be a top priority for any government.

There is clear support for standardised tobacco packs from the public, and from the public health and welfare community at both national and international levels.

Let’s look at who’s backing the campaign:

The World Health Organisation is clear that marketing of tobacco products “encourages current smokers to smoke more, decreases their motivation to quit, and urges youth to start” – and make no mistake, the branding on cigarette packs is marketing.

Our standard packs campaign was a Mumsnet feature campaign in 2012 because parents believe it is important to protect their children from tobacco marketing.

The Trading Standards Institute, EU anti-fraud office representative and Greater Manchester’s Police and Crime Commissioner have dismissed tobacco industry claims that standard packs will increase the illicit trade.  

…but on the other:

In keeping with years of deceit about the deadly harms and addictiveness of their products, the tobacco industry has financed a number of third-party organisations to oppose the policy.

Throughout their opposition to standard packs, industry and pro-tobacco groups have relied on facts and figures drawn from several key sources, leaving the declaration of vested interests for others to discover. So here are just a few:

  • KPMG have produced several reports that claim the illicit tobacco trade is growing: these reports were paid for by the world’s largest tobacco company, Philip Morris International. But they contradict the Government’s own figures.
  • Transcrime have also produced reports on the illicit tobacco trade: these are also funded by Philip Morris, and report strikingly similar findings
  • The Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco (Forest), are a pro-smoking group that has opposed any legislation intended to reduce smoking rates: they are supported by British American Tobacco (BAT), Japan Tobacco International (JTI) and Imperial Tobacco.
  • Forest has, in turn, used their own single-issue front-group Hands Off Our Packs (HOOPS) to oppose standard packs: they receive the same veiled support from BAT, JTI and Imperial tobacco.
  • The Intellectual Property (IP) firm, Rouse, have written articles which look at the implications for brands’ intellectual property: last week the firm amended their client list, removing Japan International Tobacco, but helpfully staff biographies list tobacco clients among them.
  • The Common Sense Alliance includes many members who have spoken out against standard packs: among them, former-police officers who had given evidence to the House of Lords. The Observer reported the Common Sense Alliance is funded by BAT – something the former officers failed to declare.

In July 2012, JTI announced that they would be committing £2m to a campaign opposing standard packs, placing several adverts in national publications throughout and beyond the consultation period. To date the Advertising Standards Authority has ruled that two separate ads are misleading and unsubstantiated”.

A quick note on smuggling: one of the most persistent and widely aired myths in the industry’s campaign. As we heard from a current Trading Standards Officer on this very blog, “plain packs won’t encourage smuggling”.

The illicit cigarette market has been falling since its peak in the early 2000s, yet the tobacco industry claims the illicit trade is ‘booming’ (which a parliamentary report noted is “contrary to the available statistics”).

Even their representatives (the Tobacco Manufacturers Association) accept that the consumption of illicit tobacco in the UK is falling.

When you look at the whole package, this collaboration, and extent of this deception is like something out of a Hollywood script.

What happens next?

Although the Government missed the chance to announce standard packs in the Queen’s speech, there are still opportunities to introduce standard packs legislation in this session and let Parliament decide.

So we need to move fast. Email your MP today and ask them to do the right thing: introduce standardised cigarette packs and put the health of our children ahead of tobacco industry profits.

If all of us stand united in the fight against cancer, our voices will be louder and clearer than any campaign the tobacco industry can mount.

The irony of it all

The irony of this all is that shiny and glamorous branded tobacco packets are the perfect metaphor for the tobacco industry’s tactics throughout this campaign.

Their reports and websites look the part; they slap a logo on them, and spend huge amounts to promote them, to as wide an audience as possible. But when you open the page, much like opening a pack of cigarettes, all you find inside is a toxic concoction that flatters to deceive.

It is easy to be frustrated, agitated and angry with the government’s failure to back up a commitment to reducing preventable mortality, by ignoring a measure that will reduce the appeal of an addiction that causes one in every four cancer deaths in the UK.

In this regal speech, which laid out this government priorities, it appears that a supporting cast of tobacco industry proxies have won the day.

This stuttering progress can be overcome, and we will urge the government to ignore the profit-driven interests of the tobacco industry, and instead move to protect its most vulnerable citizens.

Ultimately, we think this is a policy for which they would be celebrated, resonating with the assured words of King George VI that ‘the highest of distinctions is service to others’.


  • Chris Woodhall is a tobacco control officer at Cancer Research UK


Brian June 21, 2013

Very interesting PJ. My brother-in-law is an anti smoking fanatic. We think he may have Parkinsons. My late mother-in-law was forced to give up smoking by well meaning relatives. As she was going into dementia, she had no say in the matter. She gained so much weight, she developed diabetes. It was the diabetes that killed her.

anita drewett May 14, 2013

Why on earth does anyone think that A PACKET makes someone want to do it – ’tis the fricking parents – I am one of those fricking parents who smoked in 1965 at the age of 10 because my parents did – 2 out of my 3 children smoke SO – NOTHING TO DO WITH SODDING PACKAGING – I smoked thru’ all 3 pregnancies – I didn’t know it was crap in those days – no-one was told – my daughter knows now that she a) has to give up and b) especially before she gets pregnant xxxxx OK we have been told, but it has destroyed all the pubs in the land – Isn’t anyone else fed up with being told how to live their lives?????

junican May 12, 2013

@ JDR on May 10, 2013 at 8:49 pm.

“Smoking in the UK kills more people than overdoses, murder, road accidents, suicide and HIV put together and causes 4 out of 5 lung cancer cases.”

No it does not.

There…. You see? Your statement is as easily denied as it is stated.
Where is your physical proof that smoking causes any disease at all? There simply is none. If you say that epidemiological studies prove your statement, then you should read up about the McTear versus Imperial Tobacco Case in Scotland (ended 2005). There, Tobacco Control had every opportunity to bring their evidence before the court. They failed to do so. In fact, they were invited to do so but refused.

PJ May 12, 2013

One of the reports is here:
Can’t be any clearer than that can it but CRUK and their own praiseworthy’s cannot bear to publish such truths!
Nobody says that all cancers are caused by smoking but the junk science does its very best to include as many different types of cancer as possible into the “smoking dunnit” syndrome.
As for the letter, I have no idea how to put it on here but the part that matters is here (word verbatim): “When the public donate to us, we pledge that donations will strictly go towards reasearching cancer”. I think that statement is clear enough JDR, don’t you?
What part of £468,000 on lobbying Government for Plain Packaging (and being part of a totally corrupt campaign) does that apply as “strictly towards researching cancer”?
CRUK no doubt started out with the best of intentions but they have now simply become a political tool for other hate quangos such as ASH.
Funny how a Parkinsons Disease charity has reinforced smoking as retarding the disease:
M19 makes a very valid point indeed regarding Obesity which costs the NHS 2.5 x’s the cost of smoking related diseases and what imput to Treasury coffers do the obese make in comparison to smokers £10.5bn per annum?
You carry on with your silly tirades against those who choose to smoke and thus pay for the NHS but when you have eradicated all smoking/smokers in this country it will will be no good crying over the fact that this country is irrevocably broke. Simply look at unemployment figures in the EU to see what is happening thanks to smoking bans & intolerance!

Brian May 12, 2013

I read somewhere that 80% of people with lung cancer were non smokers. I’ve no idea whether that is true.

I do remember an American doctor on the news some years ago, saying that because of the emphasis on smoking, it was difficult to find out what caused lung cancer in non smokers.

Train Stationer May 12, 2013

In a stratified study of 76,000 mineworkers published last year, of which 49% were smokers, the incidence of lung cancer was found to be 7 x greater in non-smokers

Dick Puddlecote May 10, 2013

I will have a bet with you right now, if you’ll take it. I suggest £100 but you can raise that if you like.

You are using out-of-date government figures for your assertion that illicit trade isn’t increasing. I expect politicians already know the true *current* figures which is why they have recently held their first parliamentary enquiry into the subject.

So, my bet is that when figures are finally presented by the ONS or any other govt institution (there is always a lag), that they will prove there has been a dramatic rise in illicit since last year’s budget. To win the bet for you, there only needs to be a stagnation or a reduction.

So, how much money are you willing to back up your campaigning rhetoric with? ;)

Richard rendell May 10, 2013

Let’s put a health warning on everything it’ s about time we starting making decisions for our selves, there are so many things that affect our health, let’s make parents responsible for their children and not the state a waste of advertising and money. Be Resonsible for your own actions for once in your life

M19 May 10, 2013

How many people does obesity kill in a year ….and sugar content in manufactured products…..CR-UK think they are the guardians of public health…they are not !!….no more subscriptions from me !!

Ivan May 10, 2013

JDR makes a very important point in that CRUK is a real charity that relies on donations. However it is generally true that it does not make clear at point of donation that donors money may be used for political purposes or siphoned off to pay the likes of Deborah Arnott. I personally view that as dishonest.

It doesn’t matter that only a small percentage of donations are used for advocacy. If that advocacy associates CRUK with a dirty authoritarian political campaign it tarnishes everyone associated with the charity including the talented researchers who actually do something useful.

JDR May 10, 2013

Good to see you have ignored the part about you being wrong about government funding!

OK simply… Smoking in the UK kills more people than overdoses, murder, road accidents, suicide and HIV put together and causes 4 out of 5 lung cancer cases. Cancer Research UK have never said that smoking causes all cancers! You are just completely exaggerating/twisting anything that they do say! Before you comment on here please at least get your facts right. Also it would be great if you could upload this letter you have in front of you, seeing as the website is quite clear about what happens to donations… 80% of each £1 goes to research the rest is used on information nurses, a help line and lobbying policies THAT SUPPORT THE AIM TO BEAT CANCER! They do amazing research without which many people including myself would not be alive today.

If you loath the work of a charity trying to beat cancer and bring hope to millions of people, then don’t come on the website, don’t dedicate so much time to replying on their posts there are plenty of pro tobacco pages for you and your pals.

PJ May 10, 2013

JDR-I have a letter in front of me which categorically states that ALL donations go directly to RESEARCH. Now you tell me how small £468,000 is, when it is amassed from thousands of people who chuck a few spare bits of small change in the begging bowls thrust at them!
The fact that Crook actually fund ASH & others is nothing but an insult to those very same people above merntioned.
And then you hit the jackpot with “THAT SUPPORT THE AIM TO BEAT CANCER”. Now YOU tell me and all the other people that don’t believe your bilge, if smoking rates are slowly declining yet cancer cases are constantly rising (889 per day at the moment-soon to be 899!) what are CROOK lobbying against smoking for when it is blatantly obvious that smoking is not the major cause of all these 200+ forms of cancer?
Any ideas JDR?

JDR May 10, 2013

PJ CR-UK don’t receive any government funding, and the large majority of money is spent on research, with a small amount being used for information nurses, a help line and lobbying policies THAT SUPPORT THE AIM TO BEAT CANCER! you can read more about it here since i’m sure you wouldn’t want to misquote would you?!

Andrew Rolls May 10, 2013

But Gina………… The packaging issue IS PART of CRUK’s education incentive!
I firmly believe in the proverb uttered by a Chinese educationalist many years ago……… “I hear, and I forget; I see, and I remember; I do, and I understand.” And… before anyone shoots me down in flames….. I hasten to add that I’m NOT advocating that kids try smoking so that they will understand how bad it is for them, so much as the fact that non-smoking youngsters will hopefully be fascinated by, and handle and absorb, the messages on the packets of their parents, friends, or relatives! :-) Nothing ventured, nothing gained, eh? :-)
CRUK……. Is an online petition worth considering, or has it been done already?
– Andrew.

Brian May 10, 2013

We have two daughters. when they were teenagers, we did not want them to start smoking, even though we smoked. They were well aware of the dangers of smoking, drugs,alcohol and unsafe sex. Its not all about smoking.
Ironically my youngest daughter did a science project about the affects of smoking and then we found out she had started smoking. She stopped in her mid twenties when she was pregnant with her first child and has not smoked since. She is now in her late thirties. My eldest daughter has never smoked.
The point is, teenagers eventually grow up and they have learn for themselves. You cannot bully, scare or frighten them into making the right choices.

PJ May 10, 2013

Well, well, well, it would seem that another VERY prominent charity disagrees with the present status quo and a little bit more truth seeps out!
It is definitely time to ban these wasteful quangos and redirect their funding to our glorious NHS !

PJ May 10, 2013

Gina….. that is the most sensible post on here-congratulations! Clive Bates always said that education was the way forward for tobacco cessation yet that abominable woman, Deborah aArnott, came in with a sledgehammer to crack a walnut. Tobacco usage ha already dwindled from 70% (1950’s) to around 25% (2005) through exactly those means but Arnott wnated to make a name for herself, thus conned Blairs gov’t into believing that SHS was more toxic than sarin gas.( She alone has promoted cigarette smoking more than any other and has lived a ‘fat life’ on the back of the World health Organisations desire to eradicate smoking/smokers. As has been rightly pointed out on here by several ‘normal’ people, CRUK have been sucked into the political web of lies & deceit when they should have been spending the £433,000,000 they got last year on research-and that is why they will never get another penny from me again either!
Kids see all this hype about hiding a product and promptly go out in search of this ‘forbidden fruit’ so all the good educational work that is done by some, is totally UNDONE by the likes of ASH, FRESH et al.
These quangos should be removed from government support funding, they are (supposedly) charities so let’s see just how much they would receive from the general public! I’ll bet that suych as Arnott/Dockrell wouldn’t hang around to long when they realised the gravy train had been removed due to austerity measures!

Gina May 10, 2013

If CRUK had an effective education policy in place, the packaging issue would be irrelevant.
Tackling the obsession with fast food, sugary drinks plus the addictive lure of alcohol, smoking and drugs are key.

Youngsters need self respect and self awareness to form a positive choice. They follow bad habits initiated by adults.

Informative education and more positive role models would help. Encouraging a healthier lifestyle needs to be more appealing to youngsters. Opportunities for activities need to be affordable and interesting.

Some will choose to smoke etc, but provided with the right type of venues, with activities, offering affordable good food choices might just keep others distracted.

TTR May 10, 2013

There’s an enormous amount of valuable experience from around the world of different types of tobacco regulation. Why won’t the health lobby do proper scientific research into what works and what doesn’t? Instead, they seem much more interested in enagaging in a virility contest to get the most hyperactive and draconian measures enacted. The lack of any interest in researching the impact of existing measures such as graphical health warnings, smoking bans and punitive taxation is staggering and really makes you wonder whether these people really care about health outcomes. Its very sad that organisations like CRUK have become highjacked by campaigning zealots when resources could be better deployed on bringing new insight into the causes and cancer and how to prevent it. Regarding plain packaging, ‘an attitude survey of five teenagers from Glasgow’ is no evidence basis for a policy with such far-reaching collateral risk (illict trade, etc).

Brian May 10, 2013

These packets would not have been plain would they? They would have been covered with vile, disgusting graphic images. Think of the children. I don’t think so. How distressing do you think would these images would be for children, but then I think they’re meant to distress, children and smokers.

Mike May 10, 2013

Packaging has no influence on wanting to smoke/start smoking. I say that from personal experience.
I was 15 when I started smoking properly and that was because my group of friends at the time were smoking. I thought it was the “cool” thing to do. I didn’t walk into a shop one day, look at the packaging of cigarettes and immediately want to buy them. In fact when I was younger than 15, I was terrified to try a cigarette (my mother used to smoke) because how can inhaling smoke be any good for you? Young people aren’t stupid.
If smoking is such a huge health problem, then why is it still legal? The government only care about the huge tax they slap on the price tag and yet they get away with it because smoking is an addiction, not a choice.
Nicotine is the real problem – forget packaging.

junican May 10, 2013

I see that the same old propaganda phrases are being trotted out over and over again.
It is blatantly obvious that the PP objective was to damage tobacco companies and nothing else. I have no connection with tobacco companies and do not give a toss about them, but they do provide WHAT PEOPLE WANT and provide a lot of jobs both directly and indirectly. I do wish that the Tobacco Control Monopoly would stop the ‘for the children’ racket. Children have no interest in cigarettes – period. They like sweeties.
The author of this article must know very well that the Tobacco Control Industry have NEVER defined the word ‘children’. Also, it constantly, and deliberately, lumps together the words ‘children’ and ‘young people’, as though ‘young people’ were children. But the TCI more and more class ‘young people’ as up to the age of 25!
The propaganda lies and spin of the Tobacco Control Industry (which has been providing a very lucrative living for many a charlatan for some years) are gradually being seen for what they are.
Finally, why did the Tobacco Control Industry not produce PROOF that smoking causes lung cancer in the McTear Case?

Gary May 9, 2013

I’m sorry, not all Cancer’s are caused by smoking, Smoking should be about “choice”, Cancer Research UK, please research cancer cure’s, and not wast time and money on things such as plain packaging. No government will ever ban the sale of tobacco. Children now all they have to do is to walk down the street and, YES, the’ll see people smoking so all this anti smoking nonsense will have very little or no effect on children starting smoking, in a nutshell if people are going to start smoking the’ll start, end of.