We have to wonder what could possibly be causing the Westminster Government to drag its heels on a commitment to introduce plain, standardised packaging for tobacco products.
The early evidence, following the launch of plain packs in Australia, is positive, with no sign of the dire consequences predicted by opponents. The coalition government initially pressed ahead on the issue, then backed down as the tobacco companies threw millions of pounds at opposing a measure which poses a fundamental threat to their profits.
Following huge support from the health community, and a positive report from an independent expert review, draft regulations were published and it seemed that plain, standardised packaging was once again on the way.
The Scottish Government, which strongly supports the measure, agreed to hold back and put its trust in UK-wide action.
Time is running out for regulations to be passed before Parliament dissolves before the May elections. To ensure sufficient time for the various parliamentary processes to be negotiated, ministers must be making preparations to vote on plain packs now. Yet still we wait for news.
The coalition government needs to make up its mind very soon. There is robust evidence that removing branding and designs from packaging will help make tobacco less attractive to young people. There is strong public support for a measure which was supported overwhelmingly in votes at both Westminster and Holyrood. The health community is united in demanding action.
We call on Westminster to keep on track and prepare for a vote in March. To buckle to industry lobbying now would be to fail the next generation.
British Heart Foundation Scotland
(Dr) James Cant
British Lung Foundation Scotland
(Dr) Sally Winning
British Medical Association Scotland
Cancer Research UK
Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland
Royal College of Nursing Scotland
(Prof) Derek Bell
Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh
Royal Environmental Health Institute of Scotland (REHIS)
(Dr) Alan Rodger