Health Secretary 'open' to stripping cigarette packets of branding
Last week supermarkets were told to hide cigarettes under the counter or behind shutters
09:22 GMT, 16 April 2012
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said his mind is 'open' over proposals to strip cigarette packets of branding as a consultation on the plans was launched.
Mr Lansley invited people to give their views on whether branded cigarette packaging should disappear from the shelves.
Shuttered: Supermarkets are no longer allowed to have cigarettes on display
'We are going to consult on whether we think it will work,' he told ITV's Daybreak.
'It is an open question at the moment. This is a particular issue… we have got a whole range of measures to try and reduce tobacco smoking in this country and control tobacco.
'Would plain packaging of the type you are demonstrating, would it offer a significant additional health benefit At the moment actually our minds are open on this subject – mine too.'
The Government are considering
standard packaging for all cigarette packets, including no branding, a
uniform colour and a standard font and text for writing on the pack.
In the consultation they will ask
individuals if they think this packaging should be adopted, if a
different option should be considered or whether tobacco packaging
should remain unchanged.
It comes just a week after supermarkets were forced to hide cigarettes under the counter or behind shutters.
The last brand Cigarette packaging could soon become uniform
Health campaigners have welcomed the proposal but opponents claim it could lead to increased smuggling and job losses.
An opinion poll published yesterday found strong public support for the sale of plain packaged cigarettes in England.
The survey, by YouGov for campaigning charity Action on Smoking and Health (Ash), found 62 per cent supported the policy, which will be put out for consultation by ministers tomorrow.
Only 11 per cent were opposed to the move, the poll – published by The Observer – showed.
But another poll showed nearly half believe a ban on branded packs would increase the black market for cigarettes.
Andrew Lansley says he wants to reach a point where the tobacco industry had 'no business' in the UK
The research conducted on 1,200 people on behalf of tobacco company Philip Morris International also found that four out of five people think that making all cigarette packs look the same will make it easier for counterfeiters to copy them.
A spokesman for the company said: 'Plain packaging will not reduce smoking rates and on the contrary would just boost the already sizeable black market for counterfeit and smuggled cigarettes, a market that is unregulated, untaxed and run by criminals.'
Mr Lansley issued a hostile warning to the tobacco industry last week saying he wanted to reach a point where it had 'no business' in the UK.
He said in a statement: 'Smoking remains one of the most significant challenges to
public health. Each year it accounts for over 100,000 deaths in the UK and one
in two long-term smokers will die prematurely from a smoking disease.
'That is why the health ministers across the UK have a
responsibility to look closely at initiatives that might encourage smokers to
quit and stop young people not taking up smoking in the first place.'
Ash chief executive Deborah Arnott said there was ample evidence that plain packs were less attractive to young people and also helped highlight the statutory health warnings.
'The argument used by 'big tobacco' and its supporters that this would lead to an increase in smuggling is laughable,' she said.
'It's already so easy to copy packaging that it's only through covert markings that enforcement officers can tell the difference between authentic and counterfeit cigarette packs.
'We need to make smoking history for our children and getting rid of the glitzy packaging is the essential next step if we are to succeed.'
YouGov surveyed 10,000 adults in England online between February 27 and March 16.