Plain cigarette packaging plan considered by UK government

29 November 2013 12:02 AM

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Plain cigarette packaging plan considered by UK government

The British government is again considering plans to follow Australia's lead in enforcing plain packaging for cigarettes.

The UK opposition has labelled the change of heart as an embarrassing U-turn after it says the Australian advisor to the government, Lynton Crosby, appeared to kill it off.

At the time, Mr Crosby was blamed by the Labour opposition for steering the government away from Australia's path.

Now the issue is back on the agenda with yet another study, due next March, that will focus on the Australian experience but with a commitment to act if it checks out.

UK health minister Jane Ellison says the government has been consistent in its desire to have an evidence-based approach to public health.

"We will introduce standardised tobacco packaging if, following the review and consideration of the wider issues raised, we're satisfied that there is sufficient grounds to proceed," she said.

But her opposition counterpart Luciana Berger says there is no need to wait.

"We've seen plenty of U-turns over the last three years but only a government as shambolic as this one could now be U-turning on a U-turn," she said.

"They haven't so much lost their way on public health, they're running around in circles."

Meanwhile Conservative party MP Philip Davies urged his government to reject plain packaging outright.

"Idiotic and nanny state proposal such as plain packaging of tobacco is what we expect from the party opposite," he said.

"What we expect from conservative ministers are to believe in individual freedom and individual responsibility."

The government has dismissed a suggestion they are only acting now because of a move in the House of Lords that would effectively force their hand.

Whatever the motivation, organisation Action on Smoking and Health spokesperson Debra Arnott is delighted.

"This is an amazing day. We didn't think in the summer that we'd get to this day," she said.

She says without Australia going first, no other country would be considering the idea.

"We've seen this with other measures, you know with smoke-free it was Ireland went first and everyone else followed," she said.

"With plain standardised packaging, it’s been Australia so thank you Australia."

The Tobacco Manufacturers' Association issued a statement warning: "The evidence emerging from Australia in the year since plain packaging was introduced indicates that levels of consumption have remained flat whilst there have been indications that sales of smuggled cigarettes have increased."

The British government says it will enact legislation so it is ready if it decides to follow Australia's lead.


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