“It’s official – Govt gives up on public health policy” was how one tweet summed-up the announcement today that the government has put its plans to introduce standardised tobacco packaging on hold.
The statement that accompanied the consultation response offered the explanation that the government “has decided to wait until the emerging impacts of standardised tobacco packaging in Australia”.
It’s a reason we don’t accept, because doing nothing while 570 children start smoking every day in the UK, is simply not an option.
Public health has been a duty of government since the Romans built aqueducts – yet the public health of society’s most vulnerable is being inexcusably neglected here; children being lured into an addiction that kills one in two of its long-term users.
This decision means that lives will be lost.
That’s why our message of defiance is clear. The government may think that they can ‘kick this into the long grass’ but the spotlight on the issue has only brought it sharper into focus, and we’re unequivocal that standard packs will not be cast into the wilderness.
You only need to look at some of today’s media coverage, to determine the nationwide interest in this issue:
- The BBC reported Labour attacks Tories over plain cigarette ‘U-turn’
- Sky News covered Plans for plain cigarette packaging shelved
- The Guardian ran with UK plans for plain cigarette packaging to be shelved
- The Mail Online Stubbed out: Ministers axe plans for plain-pack cigarettes sparking huge row with cancer charities
- The Independent reported Anger as plans to standardise cigarette packaging are left on the shelf
- Whilst the Financial Times covered the story UK drops plans for plain cigarette packs [Paywall]
Just a quick look at Twitter highlights the full-extent of anger from politicians, public health experts and public alike. And if you need a reminder of why this is so urgent, watch this video:
This was a UK-wide consultation, and health ministers in the devolved nations – Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – had already written to Jeremy Hunt urging him to press-ahead with standard packs UK-wide.
With today’s announcement, signalling that their wishes have been ignored, Scotland has moved onto the front-foot and is “still committed” to standardised packaging. We fully welcome this re-commitment.
Our Chief Executive Dr Harpal Kumar called the decision “extraordinary” on Radio Four’s Today Programme, referring to the overwhelming evidence that standard packs will make tobacco less attractive to children.
It would be extraordinary if the government truly believed they could hide-away standard packs in the long grass. Because, to paraphrase a Prime Minister who didn’t shy away from a fight, our message is simple: ‘We will fight them in the long grass – we will never surrender’.