Standardised cigarette packs could be introduced by next election
Cigarettes could be sold in plain, standardised packaging by the next election, after the Government announced a rapid independent review of the evidence on tobacco packaging.
The Government put the policy on hold in the summer, but is now set to give ministers the power to introduce standard packs, subject to an evidence review that will report by March 2014.
"Stopping cigarettes being marketed to children as a glamorous and desirable accessory is one of the greatest gifts we can give the next generation" - Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK
The evidence review will be chaired by paediatrician Sir Cyril Chantler.
This means that if the review comes out in favour of standard packs, the new-look packaging could be on the shelves before the 2015 general election.
Cross-party amendments to the Children And Families Bill had been tabled in the House of Lords to allow the introduction of standardised tobacco packaging and were to have been voted on in the near future, but the Government will now table its own amendment.
Cancer Research UK welcomed the news.
Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said: "Stopping cigarettes being marketed to children as a glamorous and desirable accessory is one of the greatest gifts we can give the next generation.
"Tobacco is a unique product. It is the only consumable that, when used in the way the manufacturer intends, kills half of its users. Allowing marketing practices that promote this is simply wrong - especially when the result is millions of children being lured in to an addiction that results in death and chronic health problems.
"This government's stated intention to bring in standardised packaging of tobacco shows great leadership. If this becomes law next year there is no question that it will save thousands of lives in the future."
Health charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) also hailed the announcement.
Chief executive Deborah Arnott said: "This decision is a victory for public health, for common sense and for future generations who will as a result be protected from glitzy, colourful and misleading tobacco packaging.
"The Government should be given due credit for being willing to listen to Parliament and to the experts and change its mind.
All tobacco products would look the same under the reforms, with the health warnings being the dominant feature on the packaging.
Copyright Press Association 2013