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Standardised tobacco packaging

Members of the Smokefree Action Coalition played an active role in bringing about standardised packaging for tobacco products. The legislation was approved in March 2016 with the regulations coming into force in May 2016, before being fully implemented in May 2017.

On Wednesday 11th March 2015 MPs voted overwhelmingly in support of regulations to implement standardised tobacco packaging. 367 MPs voted in favour of the measure and just 113 against. The regulations were approved by the House of Lords on 16th March and the measure took effect in May 2016 – at the same time as the EU Tobacco Products Directive came into force, introducing new rules on the size and placement of the health warnings, minimum pack sizes and so on.

Retailers and manufacturers were given a year period to move on from the old packaging before the full and final implementation in May 2017.

Member organisations of the Smokefree Action Coalition pledged their support for standardised packaging and played an active role in bringing about the new regulations. See the Coalition briefing on standard packaging regulations for more information.

Hundreds of children take up smoking every day. This is not a party political issue; it is a vital matter of child protection and public health. Putting cigarettes in standard packs has stopped the pack being used to promote the product and is helping to make smoking history for our children.

Key points about standardised tobacco packaging

It was needed

  • Smoking is a childhood addiction, not an adult choice [1]
  • Hundreds of children start smoking each day [2]
  • Half of all lifelong smokers die from their addiction – that’s over 100,000 people last year in the UK [3]
  • Cigarette packs are attractive and misleading, especially to children [4, 5]

It was wanted

  • The public supported plain, standard packaging [6]
  • The public health community supported plain standard packaging [7]
  • There was, and is, cross party support at Westminster for standard packs. [8]

It was workable

  • Standard packs are cheap and easy to implement [9]
  • Australia already has standard packs. Retailers have found it easy to implement [10,11] and there is no evidence it will increase smuggling. [4,12]

Support for standardised ‘plain’ packaging

During the campaign for standardised plain packaging, a number of members of the Smokefree Action Coalition pledged their support and welcomed the government’s announcement to review the evidence and introduce preparatory legislation. Read what they said here.

Independent review into standardised tobacco packaging

The Smokefree Action Coalition welcomed the publication of the independent review of evidence undertaken by Sir Cyril Chantler on standardised packaging on 03 April 2014, known as the Chantler Review.

Standardised packaging in parliament

  • [1]

    Two thirds of smokers become addicted before the age of 18 and 39% under 16 see data from the General Lifestyle survey

  • [2]

    Hopkinson, N. Child uptake of smoking by area across the UK. Thorax doi:10.1136/thoraxjnl-2013-204379.

  • [3]

    Data from national sources from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

  • [4]

    Sir Cyril Chantler, Independent Review into standardised packaging of tobacco, King’s College London, 03 April 2014

  • [5]

    U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, USDHHS, 2012.

  • [6]

    The poll total sample size was 12,269 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken by YouGov between 5th and 14th March 2014. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+). Respondents were shown what a standard pack could look like, including larger health warnings as in Australia.

  • [7]

    The Smokefree Action Coalition is an alliance of over 250 health organisations including medical royal colleges, the BMA, the Trading Standards Institute, the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, the Faculty of Public Health, the Association of Directors of Public Health and ASH, all support the introduction of standard packs.

  • [8]

    The Secretary of State has the power to make Regulations under Section 94 of the Children and Families Act 2014. This Section of the Children and Families Act was passed overwhelmingly in both the House of Lords (nem con) and House of Commons (fewer than 25 MPs voted against), following a strong cross-Party campaign in support of the policy.

  • [9]

    Standard packs are a regulatory measure which only requires changes in packaging and these changes will reduce the manufacturers’ costs of production.

  • [10]

    Carter OBJ, Welch M, Mills BW, Phan T, Chang P. Tobacco plain packaging improves retail transaction times: first real-life data from Australia repudiating tobacco retail industry scaremongering. BMJ rapid responses accessed 13th February 2013. Plus see Youtube clip showing purchase of cigarettes in Australian retailer after implementation of the legislation.

  • [11]

    Bayly, M., et al., No lasting effects of plain packaging on cigarette pack retrieval time in small Australian retail outlets, Tob Control, 30 May 2014, doi:10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2014-051683

  • [12]

    Tobacco facts and figures: Australian Department of Health