The government is set to press ahead with a review of cigarette packaging, forcing tobacco firms to sell them in plain packaging in an effort to deter youngsters from smoking.
The Prime Minister David Cameron in July delayed plans to ban company branding on cigarette packets, a move that was strongly criticised by health campaigners. At the time he said that he wanted to first see the impact of a similar decision in Australia.
Branded packaging has been accused of encouraging children to smoke and moves are afoot in Europe to crack down on tobacco marketing.
Now, it is expected that Mr Cameron will announce the idea in the next few days.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said in July that plain packaging would increase the impact of health warnings, stop consumers from thinking some products were less harmful, and make tobacco products less attractive for adults and children.
Shadow public health minister Luciana Berger said the Government should simply bring in a law now: “We need immediate legislation for standard cigarette packaging, not another review. The Government needs to stand up to the tobacco industry’s vested interests,” she said.
“The evidence to support standardised packaging is clear. The consensus is overwhelming. We don’t need any further delay while 570 children are lighting up for the first time every day.”
A study in Australia of 500 smokers showed that they found cigarettes in plain packs less appealing, and had become 80 per cent more likely to think about quitting at least once a day since the packs, which are a drab olive green and carry large health warnings, were brought in.
Australian health minister Tanya Pilbersek said in July that smokers also seemed to enjoy cigarettes less.
“While tobacco companies haven’t changed the formula of their products,” she said. “We’ve had feedback from smokers saying their cigarettes taste worse since the government’s required packaging to be plain.”
Six million people die every year from smoking and the toll is projected to rise to eight million by 2030, according to the WHO.