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   Nov 28

Cigarette packaging: Ministers launch fresh review

A consultation on the packaging was carried out by the government last year
The government is to announce an independent review of cigarette packaging in England, amid calls for action to discourage young smokers.

David Cameron appeared to distance himself from plain packaging in July, saying further evidence was needed to show whether it would be effective.

But No 10 sources said the issue would be looked at again and the government was “open-minded” about what to do.

Labour said immediate action was needed, “not another review”.

The government has never officially ruled this out, saying previously that it wanted to see the results of a pilot scheme in Australia – the first country to introduce it – before deciding whether to follow suit.

Most Conservative MPs supported this stance at the time although a handful – including former GP Sarah Wollaston – accused the government of pandering to big business.

The Times, which first reported the story, said the new review would report in March and could lead to plain packages on English shelves before the 2015 election.

The BBC understands it will be led by an eminent paediatrician and will focus on the experience in Australia.

BBC political correspondent Iain Watson said ministers would also approve enabling legislation to allow them to sanction plain packaging “very quickly” if the evidence stacked up.

The Times said a study conducted in Australia found that smokers using standardised plain brown packets were 81% more likely to consider quitting.

‘Marketing tool’

Labour, who have sought to link Conservative election chief Lynton Crosby’s work as a consultant for the tobacco industry to delays in the policy, said ministers needed to “stand up to vested interests”.

“The evidence to support standardised packaging is clear,” said shadow health minister Luciana Berger.

“The consensus is overwhelming. We don’t need any further delay while 570 children are lighting up for the first time every day.”

Cancer Research UK said the move would “save thousands of lives”.

Dr Harpal Kumar, the charity’s chief executive, 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.

“If this becomes law next year, there is no question that it will save thousands of lives in the future.”

‘Rise in counterfeiting’

The Department of Health held a consultation in 2012 on plans which would have required manufacturers to use standardised packets and fonts, and put prominent graphic warnings on their products.

Health campaigners say packaging is a “key tool” for the industry to get new customers but manufacturers say plain packets will increase counterfeiting and the focus must be on reducing under-age smoking.

The ban on images on packaging came into force in Australia on 1 January after a long-running legal battle between the former Labor government and the tobacco industry.

Manufacturers claimed the law was unconstitutional and infringed on their intellectual property rights by banning the use of brands and trademarks.

But they said they would comply after the legality of the measure was upheld by the country’s highest court.

The Scottish government has said it is “still committed” to introducing plain packaging, while New Zealand is also considering the move.

Source: BBC

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