The government is set to introduce regulations that will pave the way for a ban on branded tobacco packaging in the UK.
Following the publication of the Chantler Review this week into the potential health impacts of standardising tobacco packaging, the government has said the report “makes a compelling case” and “would be very likely to have a positive effect on public health”.
The report claims that branded packaging plays a role in encouraging young people to smoke and that the introduction of plain packaging for tobacco products would probably reduce the rate of children taking up smoking.
Making the announcement, public health minister Jane Ellison said that the Department of Health would now publish draft regulations to be included in a “final short consultation” to conclude at the end of this month.
In his review Sir Cyril Chantler cited evidence from Australia, which became the first country to introduce plain packaging in 2011.
However, the packaging industry has criticised the move claiming that it is not backed by sufficient evidence and that it will have a detrimental effect on legitimate businesses and increase illicit trade figures.
Representatives from the industry also state that it has in fact produced no results in Australia.
Managing director of Japan Tobacco International UK Daniel Torras said the introduction of plain packaging would be unlawful.
"The latest reports from Australia indicate that plain packaging has had no positive impact at all and that the illegal trade is increasing. For the Chantler review to discount the only "real world" evidence available is inexplicable.”
He said that a thorough independent impact assessment of the economic consequences on businesses was essential to restore confidence in the regulatory process.
“The government must consider the impact that plain packaging could have on the thriving illegal trade in the UK and give time to assess the relevance of plain packaging given a complete retail display ban from early 2015 and the European Tobacco Products Directive, which is set to increase the size of health warnings on packs to 65% and ban packs of 10.
“The introduction of plain packaging would be unlawful as it unjustifiably infringes a number of JTI's fundamental legal rights, which are protected by UK, EU and international law, including its right to property, freedom of expression and freedom of trade," he added.
Mike Ridgway, who heads the recently launched Consumer Packaging Manufacturer’s Alliance, said: “The packaging manufacturing industry across the UK will be affected by this measure as it will take both complexity and added-value out of its production processes.
“The counterfeit situation, the expansion of the illicit trade and the consequences of it affecting legitimate business in retail and other sectors are still to be addressed by all governments, notwithstanding the reduction in tax revenues that they will experience.”