As a former chair of North West Action on Smoking and Health I think that cigarette packaging is one of the last forms of marketing tobacco companies can still use to attract new customers. Research for Oldham’s tobacco control strategy shows that 28% of our local population smoke. That’s about 45,000 people and smoking is the town’s single greatest cause of preventable illness and early death. As an indicator of how serious smoking can be their statistics for the period between 1999 and 2003 show men in Oldham lost, on average, 25.2 months of life due to smoking related illnesses and women lost 15.7 months. As rates of smoking fall these figures will start to improve and using plain packaging on cigarettes is an important step to help achieve that.
Australia is leading the way in stopping people from becoming addicted to a lethal and harmful product. If we care about the health of people in our community then we should introduce plain, standardised packs in the UK and help stop the next generation of smokers being recruited. From the 1 December cigarettes in Australia must be sold in dark olive brown packets which are mostly covered in health warnings.
Health charities in the UK, including the British Heart Foundation, want the UK Government here to introduce similar legislation. Currently, tobacco companies can use distinctive colours, brand designs and logos on their packaging.
Research has shown that plain packaging would reduce tobacco’s attractiveness, increase the effectiveness of health warnings and stop misleading claims about the harms of smoking.
The Coalition Government has recently conducted a public consultation on the issue and is considering whether to bring forward legislation on standardising the packaging of tobacco products for the whole of the UK.