Charities slam tobacco packaging report

In collaboration with the Press Association

Anti-smoking campaigners have criticised claims that plain packaging for cigarettes will have no public health benefit.

A new report, from the Adam Smith Institute and written by journalist and author Chris Snowdon, argues that putting tobacco products into plain, standardised packaging would increase smuggling and could set a "dangerous precedent" for other products.

But campaigners say the report is mistaken about the aim of the policy, which is to protect young people from tobacco marketing.

The report was published ahead of a planned public consultation on tobacco packaging, expected to launch in the spring.

Studies suggest that branding cigarette packs makes them more attractive to young people, as manufacturers try to attract new smokers to replace the 100,000 who die every year in the UK.

Research also shows that plain packaging reduces the appeal of tobacco, by removing distracting colours and designs, and giving more prominence to health warnings.

Campaigners also say there is no evidence to support Mr Snowdon's claims that plain packaging would lead to a rise in tobacco smuggling.

Plain cigarette packs would still have the same covert markings, tax stamps and health warnings, making them no easier to counterfeit than current packs.

The charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) said that by publishing the report, the Adam Smith Institute was simply acting as a "mouthpiece" for cigarette companies and promoting the views of the tobacco industry.

Sarah Woolnough, Cancer Research UK's director of tobacco control, said: "Chris Snowdon misunderstands the case for plain packaging and is mistaken about the aim of the policy.

"The policy is not intended to reduce the smoking rate today. It's about stopping the next generation from taking up smoking. It will give millions of children one less reason to start.

"This report ignores the evidence that packaging is a vital part of marketing - as he could learn from tobacco industry documents.

"One in four deaths from cancer is due to smoking. Alongside our scientific breakthroughs to find new treatments for cancer, we look for ways to stop people getting cancer in the first place. And one of the best ways to do so is to stop children from starting smoking."

Copyright Press Association 2012