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Plain packaging for cigarettes - a momentous step forward

Penny explains what parliament’s approval of standardised tobacco packaging means for the UK.

Packaging for cigarettes and tobacco could be standardised if regulations are passed in parliament


Monday 16 March 2015 marked a momentous step forward for public health. Parliamentarians stuck to their guns - despite the desperate efforts of tobacco lobbyists – in the name of the 200,000 children in this country who are every year enticed to take up smoking.

Parliament’s decision means that standardised tobacco packaging will be introduced across the UK by May 2016. Tobacco companies will no longer be able to target children and young people using glitzy and eye-catching packaging.

The measure is an immense triumph and one which we, our supporters, and other charities and health organisations have campaigned on for years.

The impact of plain packaging

It is estimated that each year 100,000 people die from smoking-related diseases. It's a devastating fact that these smokers are replaced by around 200,000 young people taking up this deadly habit.

The benefits of plain packaging are clear. Since its introduction in Australia in 2012, there has been a reduction in the number of people starting smoking. Last year, the UK government commissioned an independent review which also concluded in favour of standardised packaging. The review dismissed the supposed risks, such as counterfeiting and black market trade.

Overwhelming support

Both houses of parliament have been supportive of the measure – that includes the Prime Minister David Cameron, and his health ministers.

On 11 March 2015 367 to 113 MPs voted to introduce standardised packs. In the Lords, less than a week later, the measure was passed with little resistance, confirming the introduction of the law by May 2016.

Last month, parliament also approved a law to ban smoking in cars carrying children. We're certain that this, along with standardised packs, will prove to be the most significant milestones for public health since the smoke-free legislation of 2007.

Thank you

By helping us raise awareness of this issue, posting your support on Facebook and Twitter, emailing or writing a letter to your MP, or simply making a small donation to support our campaigning work - all of you have helped convince parliament of the vital need to act now.

So, thank you, from all of us at the British Lung Foundation. Every young person discouraged from taking up smoking could be another life saved. That’s a pretty incredible thought.

We campaign on a wide range of important lung health issues in the UK to make sure everyone affected by a lung condition will be heard. Find out how you can get involved.


Personally, I share the view of a previous respondent - BLF's cigarette packaging image is shocking enough to catch the attention of smokers and, even if only given a smidgen of interest, such an image can't help but leave an impression. When one thinks about it, no matter how annoying adverts can be - they DO stick in the memory, don't they? Very best wishes.
We should not have to fight to get the non smoking law in cars Our first thoughts should be to our children? as parents we protect them form right and wrong, which clearly some parents are not doing As i am sure they would not give a baby cigarette to smoke, but pasive sm9ke can be just as damaging.
As a schoolboy many years ago I and a great many others used to buy 2 or three cigarettes at a time in a plain paper bag if we were lucky the kind shopkeeper would throw in a couple of matches. The lack of a pretty picture or fancy writing did not detract from or or affect the attraction of the contents paper bag. Advertising was word of mouth and must have been effective judging by the number of smokers in my age group.
I was thinking that the packs should be printed with a coffin on the front and pictures of lungs when subjected to tobacco but the images at the top of the comments from Dr Penny Woods would make far more of an impact, gross!
Plain packaging is not going to stop any smoker from purchasing tobacco. It will only make shop assistants lives harder to find the brand the customer asks for. I am not sure it will discourage people taking it up either. Every smoker ignores and laughs at the graphic pictures on the pack and says 'Well it's too late for me then'. It would be far better to put information on about getting copd instead and saying things like 1-4 smokers will get it, and it increases your chances of other lung diseases too. Stop a lot of the ones showing smokers on oxygen but instead show someone being out of breath going up a hill/carrying shopping/not being able to play with their children/grandchildren etc. This is far more realistic and something smokers can actually relate to.

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17 March 2015