Plain packaging regs come into force

New regulations forcing tobacco companies to sell cigarettes and rolling tobacco in plain packaging came into force over the weekend.

The new regulations, which fall under an EU directive, were officially taken up for any cigarettes sold from Saturday (20 May) and for those manufactured after 20 May 2016. 

All newly printed packs must be standardised in a dull green colour and covered in graphic health warnings and they may not feature company logos.

The move comes after the UK Supreme Court refused permission last month for tobacco firms to appeal against the plain packaging legislation. Tobacco producers including British American Tobacco and Japan Tobacco International (JTI) were looking to appeal on the grounds that they believe the new legislation infringes their human and intellectual property rights.

There is now no cigarette packaging of any kind being printed in the UK, with the last remaining manufacturers – Amcor in Bristol and MPS in Bradford – closing last year. When the measures were passed, the UK was just the second country in the world to introduce rules on standardised packaging, although many have since followed suit.

Mike Ridgway, director of the Consumer Packaging Manufacturers Alliance (CPMA), said the regulations represent part of a “sad event” for the packaging sector.

“The fear for the packaging industry is that it sets a precedent for the consumer markets and if the trend of additional regulation by form of graphical health warnings and extra restrictions takes place in markets such as alcohol, confectionery products or snack foods, the packaging industry will lose lots of added value in its production processes,” he said.

"As far as the UK is concerned, the closures of major printing works producing cigarette packs that has resulted in no cigarette manufacturing being left anymore is a sad event and a serious event and I just hope the trend doesn’t continue.”

Packaging Federation chairman Ron Marsh said: “We’re enthusiastic about the changes because they will not have as much of a dramatic effect on consumer behaviour as the legislator’s fear."

All cigarette packs must also now contain at least 20 cigarettes so they are big enough for health warnings to cover 65% of the front and back. The new rules also include a ban on menthol cigarettes from 2020 and on promotional statements such as “this product is free of additives” or “is less harmful than other brands”.

Ahead of the ban last week, Marlboro owner Philip Morris appeared to be attempting to sidestep the rules by rolling out durable tins that look like cigarette packets. The tins are imitations of previous Marlboro packets and do not include graphic images, although they do contain the health warning “smoking kills”.