Britain Inhales Idea of Standardized Cigarette Packaging

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

Will standardized cigarette packaging keep consumers in Britain from smoking? Government leaders hope so, and that’s why they are in the process of evaluating a government review that may be the proof needed to mandate plain packaging on all cigarette boxes. According to Reuters, a government-commissioned review was conducted in November that studied the possible effects plain packing could have on smoking rates, and junior health minister Jane Ellison said on Thursday that the review showed “compelling” evidence that plain packaging would improve public health and shrink the number of child smokers.

Draft regulations and the results of a short consultation are expected to be published this month, with the expert who conducted the review, Cyril Chantler, maintaining in a letter penned Tuesday, per Reuters, ”It is in my view highly likely that standardized packaging would serve to reduce the rate of children taking up smoking and implausible that it would increase the consumption of tobacco.” However, now, the opposing Labour Party is complaining that current government officials are not working quickly enough. Since the researchers’ findings will be published this month, any resulting law is not expected to go into effect until May 2015, and many critics say that that’s too late. They don’t believe the government should hold a consultation before putting the regulation into law.

According to Reuters, Labour health spokesperson Luciana Berger maintained on Thursday that there is no need for delays, and there is already a sufficient amount of evidence that standardized packaging is crucial. She told parliament that, “Over 70,000 children will have taken up smoking since the government announced the review. How many more children are going to take up smoking before this government takes firm and decisive action?”

Berger has a point, but government officials are still expected to maintain their decision as they await more conclusive evidence. It also should not go without mention that the month the government hopes to put the new regulation into law, May 2015, is the month of the next election.

More and more, government officials around the world have recently made a point of working to curb cigarette consumption, and as highlighted by Reuters, if and when Britain’s regulation does go into law, it will be following in the footsteps of Australia — the country that brought in codes in 2012, forcing cigarettes to be sold in plain green packaging. On that packaging, there are images showing the risky health effects of smoking, and Australian officials maintain that this advertising has at least helped to curb sales. Reuters also reported that New Zealand and Ireland are expected to be next to jump on the standardized packaging train.

Still, the new regulation will be especially significant for Britain because according to Reuters, its tobacco market is worth about $28 billion a year, and that could slide if the new laws are effective. In addition, considering Britain collected 8.56 billion pounds in duty on cigarettes in 2013, the government may feel a hit if consumers do heed the warnings on the new packaging. Following the government statement Thursday, Reuters reported that shares of Imperial Tobacco and British American Tobacco both dropped by about 0.5 percent.

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