Standard cigarette packaging one step closer after Lords approval

In collaboration with the Press Association

Plans to introduce plain, standardised packaging for cigarettes have gained further momentum following overwhelming support from the House of Lords.

"A growing evidence-base demonstrates that this enduring form of mobile tobacco marketing – handheld billboards sold in their millions - increases the appeal of tobacco products to children." - Alison Cox, Cancer Research UK

The Bill will now be considered by the House of Commons, after which – if agreed upon – the Bill will then go back to the Lords for final agreement.

The Lords backed changes proposed by the Government that would allow the introduction of standardised packaging for all cigarette and tobacco products across the UK.

If the planned legislation is approved, it will make the UK one of just a handful of countries to have brought in standardised packaging for tobacco products.

In December 2012, Australia became the first country in the world to introduce the measure. And the Republic of Ireland is expected to follow its example later this year.

The UK Government initially rejected plans for standardised packaging. But in November 2013, following a push from the Lords to resurrect the measure, the Government announced its own plans for change to the Children and Families Bill that could see standardised packaging in place by the next general election.

The final decision will be made following a review of the evidence around standard packs, conducted by paediatrician Sir Cyril Chantler, who will present his findings by the end of March.

Two-thirds of adult smokers begin smoking before the age of 18, with almost two-fifths starting before the age of 16. 

And it is hoped that removing glitzy promotional features from cigarette packs will make smoking less appealing to children and young people.

Dr Hilary Cass, President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health said: “Today’s result is a victory for child health – and for the overall health of the nation. Government has recognised its duty to protect children’s health and is sending a strong message to the tobacco industry; it is wrong to market cigarettes to impressionable young people.

“An estimated 200,000 young people start smoking every year, resulting in a range of preventable conditions including chest infections, asthma and even lung cancer. If today’s move goes some way to reducing those figures, the benefits will be felt by generations to come.”

A move to ban smoking in cars with children was also added to the Bill and was agreed by the Lords. The government has now announced it will allow MPs to have a free vote on this measure.

Alison Cox, Cancer Research UK’s head of tobacco control, said: “The successful passage of this amendment takes us one step closer toward making standard packs a reality across the UK. A growing evidence-base demonstrates that this enduring form of mobile tobacco marketing – handheld billboards sold in their millions - increases the appeal of tobacco products to children. We hope now that members in the House of Commons will make the same decision and vote to protect children from tobacco marketing as soon as possible.

“We also welcome the move to protect children from tobacco smoke in cars containing children, and hope it will lead to adults who smoke thinking twice before lighting up around children.”

Copyright Press Association 2014