Tobacco to be in plain packs

The government has confirmed it is considering forcing tobacco manufacturers to bring in plain packaging for their products.

Health secretary Andrew Lansley said it was “wrong that children are being attracted to smoke by glitzy designs on packets”.

Australia became one of the first major markets to introduce plain packaging when it passed legislation in April. The packs will come in from July 2012.

The ruling SNP in Scotland has already said it favours such a move though it has no legislative powers in this area.

ansley said: “We have to try new approaches and take decisions to benefit the population. I want to look at the idea of plain packaging.

“The evidence is clear that packaging helps to recruit smokers, so it makes sense to consider having less-attractive packaging.”?“We would prefer it if people did not smoke, and adults will still be able to buy cigarettes, but children should be protected from the start.”?Christopher Ogden, chief executive of the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association, said: “We do not believe any plans for plain packaging are based on sound public policy, nor any compelling evidence.

“Moves to prevent tobacco companies from exercising their intellectual property rights would place the government in breach of legal obligations relating to intellectual property, international trade and European law.

“Plain packs would make it so much easier for a counterfeiter to copy than existing branded packs, making it even more difficult for a consumer to differentiate between genuine and counterfeit products.”?The UK government proposals are likely to be included in a White Paper on public health, due to be published next week. The move could scupper hopes of a U-turn on the tobacco display ban, scheduled to be imposed on large stores next October and smaller retailers two years later.

The government has already confirmed it is reviewing the proposal – brought in by the old Labour government – with speculation that it would reverse the ban or make concessions.

Association of Convenience Stores chief executive James Lowman said: “While the government delays there remains an opportunity to continue lobbying and I would urge every retailer to make sure the government knows their views on this crucial issue.

“Retailers must make sure they are not distracted from this campaign by this groundless speculation.”?Lowman said the Department of Health had received 6,000 representations about the ban, mostly from local shops participating in an ACS postcard campaign.