Healthcare leaders are delighted that the government will take up a review of standardised tobacco packaging.
The independent review, undertaken by Sir Cyril Chantler, will look at whether there is likely to be an effect on public health, particularly for children, if standardised packaging were to be introduced.
A study published in BMJ Open earlier this year found that plain packaging encourages smokers to quit.
The unbranded packs – as evidenced in Australia, the first country to introduce the measure – were less satisfying for 70% of smokers.
At that time, the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the government needed more time to see how the policy worked in Australia.
Public Health Minister Jane Ellison said: “We know that two thirds of smokers start as children so we must continue to do all we can to encourage everyone to quit and in the case of children, not to start in the first place.
“The report of last year’s consultation published earlier this year showed that opinions were highly polarised with strong views put forward on both sides of the debate. Things have moved on and research evidence continues to emerge.”
Dr Peter Carter, Chief Executive & General Secretary of the RCN said: “It is good to see that the government now appears to be moving in the right direction, however what we need is decisive action to introduce plain packaging now.
“Nursing staff see first-hand the tragic effect that smoking has on people’s lives, and when people are dying from this habit every day there can be no reason to delay introducing plain packaging. We know that such a move has made smokers in Australia more likely to consider quitting and we know that it can make cigarettes less appealing to children.”
While standardised packaging remains under review, the government will continue to work to reduce smoking rates through:
- Running national behaviour change campaigns to encourage smokers to quit.
- Supporting local authorities to provide effective stop smoking services.
- Ending the display of tobacco in all shops.
Professor Sheila Hollins, Chair of the British Medical Association Board of Science, said: “The BMA has long campaigned for the government to introduce standardised packaging as a way of helping smokers quit and to help non-smokers, especially children who are heavily influenced by tobacco marketing, to never start.
"We see first-hand every day the devastating effects of tobacco addiction and we call on the government to make a decision quickly and to introduce this at the earliest possible opportunity in order to help put an end to a life-long addiction that kills and destroys health."