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Plain packaging for cigarettes

Together, we've changed the law - which will protect children for generations.

As of May 2016, all tobacco products will have to be sold in drab, standardised packaging, instead of their current colourful, branded packs. This law includes not just cigarettes, but rolling tobacco too.

This is a huge victory - and we couldn't have done it without you. Every young person discouraged from taking up smoking could be another life saved. That’s a pretty incredible thought. So thank you to everybody who supported our campaign.

Why do we need standardised packaging for cigarettes?

We all know that smoking is bad for your health: it is the number one cause of preventable early death, and every year, 100,000 people in the UK die (PDF 300KB)from smoking-related diseases such as lung cancer or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Two thirds of current smokers started smoking before the age of 18. While there are lots of reasons why young people start smoking, research has shown that one of the attractions is the glitzy, cleverly-designed packaging.

The tobacco industry’s own documents show they have invested lots of money in designing clever packaging in order to recruit young people to start smoking their products.

The government banned all other forms of tobacco advertising over a decade ago. Introducing standardised packaging would close the final loophole in this ban, by preventing tobacco companies from using packaging to market their products to young people. 

Will standardised packaging work?

Standardised packaging was introduced in Australia in 2012 and the country has already seen a decline in smoking rates since the policy became law.

In the UK, an independent review (PDF 1MB) conducted for the government by leading doctor Sir Cyril Chantler found it “highly likely that standardised packaging would serve to reduce the rate of children taking up smoking”. The policy has already received the overwhelming support of both Houses of Parliament.

Every year in the UK around 200,000 children start smoking - enough to fill 6,900 classrooms. If just a fraction of these children are discouraged from taking up smoking as a result of standardised packaging, it will save thousands of lives. 

Won’t introducing standardised packaging make it easier to sell fake cigarettes?

No. Given the graphic health warnings and individual markings that will be on the new packs, there is absolutely no reason to believe they will be easier to fake.

An independent review (PDF 1MB) conducted for the government by a leading doctor looked at this issue and found no evidence at all that standardised packaging would lead to an increase in the tobacco black market.

Although the tobacco industry has claimed that standardised packaging will lead to an increase in illicit tobacco, they have yet to provide any evidence to support this claim.

Read Sir Cyril’s evidence review (PDF 1MB) for more information.