The Government has announced that it will bring forward legislation before the General Election in May that will introduce plain packaging regulation for tobacco products.
I have long campaigned for tougher regulation on smoking. I was Chair of the APPG on Smoking and Health for many years, and was one of the national leaders of the campaign for standardised packaging of cigarettes. I believe that the rationale behind the standardised packaging campaign is convincing. Tobacco packaging is now the industry’s only promotional tool and they invest huge sums of money in marketing their products in order to recruit new customers, who are nearly always children and young people. Equally, it is important that packaging continues to display both written and pictures warnings, which are constantly updated and renewed. We must follow Australia’s lead on this issue and introduce plain packaging with warning messages, not only to protect people from the dangers of smoking but also to help ease the increasing pressure on the NHS.
There have been a number of academic studies which suggest that standardised packaging may deter people, particularly children, from buying cigarettes. That is why in November 2013 the Coalition Government announced that it would undertake an independent review to assess the public health evidence for standardised tobacco packaging.
This independent review - the Chantler review - has now been concluded, and a report on its findings was published last April. You can read this report online, at: http://goo.gl/NDL9fd
The review confirmed my belief that it is highly likely that standardised packaging would reduce the rate of children taking up smoking. It reasoned that branded packaging plays an important role in encouraging children to smoke, and that standardised packaging, together with the current tobacco control regime, could have a beneficial impact on public health.
I am glad that the government is now legislating on this issue. Smoking kills thousands of people every year and it is vitally important that people, especially young people, are not encouraged or persuaded by marketing ploys to pick up the deadly habit.