Plain packaging may be way to counter appeal of tobacco

BRANDED cigarette packets could vanish from Scottish shelves following a consultation due to be launched next week.

The UK government is set to turn the spotlight on the issue on Monday, working alongside the Scottish Government.

It could lead to all cigarette packets in Scotland being the same colour, with the same health warning they currently have, but the makers’ name reduced to small type.

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Tobacco giant Philip Morris International opposes the move and warns it will lead to a growth in counterfeit cigarettes sold on the black market.

However, anti-smoking charity Ash Scotland believes it will eventually lead to fewer young people taking up the habit and will be one of the most effective moves since the smoking ban.

Sheila Duffy, chief executive of Ash, said: “The consultation is a welcome, further step in taking a considered, evidence-based approach to tobacco control and protecting children and young people from the harms of tobacco.

“The comprehensive review of evidence which accompanies the consultation makes it clear that a large body of academic tests and research consistently show plain packaging makes tobacco products less appealing to young people.

“We call on all those who put the health and wellbeing of future generations above the future profits of big tobacco companies to respond to the consultation and support the introduction of plain packaging.”

The UK government has recently banned cigarette packets from being displayed in large shops and supermarkets in England, with smaller outlets to follow in 2015.

Removing branding will be the next step in its bid to “denormalise” smoking.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said he was “open-minded” about the consultation, but added: “We don’t work in partnership with the tobacco companies because we are trying to arrive at a point where they have no business in this country.”

He said: “Through the forthcoming consultation we want to hear as many views as possible about whether tobacco packaging should remain unchanged, plain packaging should be adopted or a different option should be considered.”

However, Philip Morris argued it is attempting to tackle the problem in the wrong way. Brett Cooper, director of corporate affairs in the UK and Ireland, said: “Three years ago, the previous UK government held a consultation on plain packaging and concluded that there was insufficient evidence it would reduce smoking rates. Since then, there has been no further evidence to challenge this conclusion.

“Reports generally cited as evidence in support of plain packaging have serious flaws and do not demonstrate that plain packaging will either help current smokers to quit, or ensure people do not start smoking.” He added: “The removal of all branding from cigarette packs makes it easier to counterfeit and would stimulate an illegal market in branded products purchased abroad.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We are working with health ministers across the UK to develop a consultation on tobacco packaging.

“Any decisions would be made once consultation responses, evidence and other relevant information have been carefully considered.”