The decision to introduce standardised packaging for tobacco products marks a huge victory for public health. This is something that the British Lung Foundation, alongside other health charities, has campaigned on for many years and there have been a number of opponents along the way. Therefore, the tobacco industry’s announcement that it was seeking to take legal action against this decision, although disappointing, did not come as a surprise.
The benefits of standardised packaging are clear. Since its introduction in Australia in late 2012, there has been a reduction in the number of people starting smoking. People have also said that they found that standardised packaging has made cigarettes less appealing and made them feel more like quitting. Many even reported that they felt that cigarettes had declined in quality - further demonstrating the power of brand design. Health care professionals will play a crucial part in complementing this law by continuing to support people to quit smoking and by continuing to educate people on the harms of smoking.
Every year, 100,000 people die from smoking-related diseases in the UK — fancy packaging is a way of enticing people to take up this deadly habit to replace them. It’s estimated that every day almost 600 children in the UK take up smoking – that’s 200,000 young people each year. Leaked tobacco industry documents have shown that tobacco companies have designed packaging specifically to target young people, and there is strong evidence showing it works.
Attempting to take legal action against a public health measure that could save literally thousands of lives is no more than a delaying tactic by the tobacco industry. They are well aware of the commercial value of their branding and are desperate to hold onto it. It also shows that they will stop at nothing to increase profits.
These tactics have been tried before in Australia, where they were met with resounding failure in the courts. We do not expect it to be any different in this country where common sense has already prevailed in both Houses of Parliament; we now look forward to the introduction of the law in May 2016.