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The Smokefree Action Coalition[i], which includes Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, is calling upon the government to take action and commit to legislation to make all tobacco packaging standard.

The Smokefree Action Coalition, an alliance of over 190 health organisations including the BMA, medical royal colleges, public health bodies and health charities is calling on the government to go ahead with legislation that will remove all logos, colour schemes and promotional graphics from tobacco packaging.

Currently in the UK, there are no restrictions on the way tobacco multinationals are allowed to promote their brands through packaging. The packaging of tobacco products remains the last form of tobacco promotion legislated in the UK and is produced to attract specific and potential consumers with often colourful and targeted eye-catching designs. These can be particularly appealing to children, with 430 UK children taking up smoking every day.

Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of health charity ASH said: “The evidence is clear that heavily branded, brightly coloured packs are attractive to children. Every day hundreds more children take up smoking, children who need protecting from tobacco industry marketing. The government must commit now to legislation to put all tobacco products in standard packs.”

There is no evidence that standardised packaging will bolster the illegal tobacco trade as some tobacco multinationals suggest.[ii] Branded tobacco packaging is no obstacle to counterfeiters and standardised packs would carry the same covert markings currently needed to identify illicit tobacco products. Legislation which ensures tobacco packaging is free from attractive designs will above all else help to discourage children from starting to smoke as a report by the Public Health Research Consortium showed, tobacco packaging is attractive and misleading, especially to children[iii].

More than 150,000 children start smoking each year in the UK[iv] and enter into a lifelong habit which has been shown to be a childhood addiction, not an adult choice[v]. Half of all lifelong smokers will die from their addiction amounting to over 100,000 people last year in the UK.[vi]

This is a popular measure. Opinion polls show that 62% of the public support the plain, standardised packaging of tobacco products, with more smokers supporting than opposing the measure.[vii] Over 200,000 people have expressed their support for the campaign to introduce the plain, standardised packaging of tobacco products in the UK. Internationally, standardised packaging is already in place in Australia, which became the first country to implement such legislation in December 2012, it’s time for the UK to follow suit.

Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation continues to lobby the government for change on this issue and will support an initiative in 2014, in collaboration with medical and health bodies from across the UK, calling for new regulations on standardised packaging to be tabled in Parliament by the middle of January.

Please click here to find your local MP's contact details & please write to ask them to support the introduction of plain packaging of cigarettes.

References

[i] The Smokefree Action Coalition is an alliance of over 190 health organisations including medical royal colleges, the BMA, the Trading Standards Institute, the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, the Faculty of Public Health, the Association of Directors of Public Health and ASH, all support the introduction of standard packs.

[ii] Smuggling the tobacco industry and plain packs. A report by Luk Joossens for Cancer Research UK.

[iii] See evidence summarised in the PHRC report http://phrc.lshtm.ac.uk/project_2011-2016_006.html

[iv]Estimate based on figures taken by CRUK from Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use Among Young People in England (2000 to 2010).

[v] Two thirds of smokers become addicted before the age of 18 and 39% under 16 see data from the General Lifestyle survey http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/ghs/general-lifestyle-survey/2010/index.html

[vi] Data from national sources from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

[vii] A poll by YouGov for ASH found that overall 62% of adults in England supported this while just 11% opposed the measure. Even among smokers for every 5 who oppose there are 6 who support. Total sample size was 10,000 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 27th February to 16th March 2012. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all adults (aged 18+) in England.

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