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Government to introduce plain packaging for tobacco before election

The Government has committed to bringing forward legislation that would see plain packaging on cigarette packaging before the general election, a health minister has announced.

Speaking in Parliament yesterday, public health minister Jane Ellison said that tobacco causes 80,000 deaths a year, with 600 children starting smoking every day.

The move – designed to protect children from the harm that tobacco causes – follows an independent review by paediatrician Sir Cyril Chantler who concluded that standardised packaging would ‘very likely have a positive impact on public health and that the health benefits would include health benefits for children’.

Earlier this month, the chief medical officer for England, Professor Dame Sally Davies, assessed Chantler’s review. She concluded that she ‘does not believe there is evidence to show that the process or the conclusions of the Chantler review are flawed and there is now accumulating evidence to support the conclusions of the review’.

Research by Stirling University, published in 2012 for the Government when it was last considering this move suggested that plain packaging helped to reinforce health messages.

Public health minister Jane Ellison told the House of Commons: ‘Fewer people than ever now smoke and cancer survival rates are at record highs. However, we cannot be complacent. We all know the damage that smoking does to health. Tobacco causes over 80,000 deaths a year, and around 600 children in the UK start smoking every day.

‘I am announcing today that we will be bringing forward legislation for standardised packaging before the end of this Parliament.’

BMA council chair Dr Mark Porter said: ‘We know that children and young people who recognise brand images including packaging, are far more likely to start smoking and become part of the tragic statistics of tobacco harm. Generic packaging will help to eradicate the marketing power for tobacco companies, and research suggests it will help increase the impact of health warnings.

‘We now call on ministers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to follow suit and look forward to this being implemented across the UK.’