The move is aimed at “de-glamourising” the image of smoking to stop youngsters taking up the habit after a similar initiative in Australia proved a success. Shops now have a year to fully implement the change which will see the distinctive liveries of brands like Marlboro with their red and white packets and the all-gold Benson and Hedges packs disappear from shelves.
The plain packs must contain a minimum of 20 cigarettes to make sure the packs are big enough for health warnings to cover 65% of the front and back, with the brand name restricted to a standard size, font and colour.
Scotland was the first part of the UK to commit to bring in plain packaging, although the UK-wide legislation to bring in the change was eventually passed at Westminster.
Scottish Government public health minister Aileen campbell said: “We want to create a tobacco-free generation in Scotland by 2034, and this is one of several measures that will help to turn that into a reality.
“By discouraging young people from taking up the habit in the first place we can start to reduce the cost this product inflicts on families and communities across Scotland.”
Linda Bauld of Cancer Research UK hailed the move as an “important step in driving down smoking rates further.”
Tobacco giants Philip Morris International, British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco and Japan Tobacco International (JTI) had challenged the move, but the Government’s proposal was backed by the High Court London, a day before it is due to come into force. JTI says it will appeal.
Shops and tobacco companies now have a year to sell old stock and implement the changes. About a fifth of Scots smoke and tobacco kills more than 13,000 people a year north of the Border, costing the NHS around £500 million.
The legislation includes a ban on menthol cigarettes from 2020 and promotional statements such as “this product is free of additives” or “is less harmful than other brands”.
Simon Clark, director of smokers’ group Forest, said: “The judgment is very disappointing. Plain packaging treats adults like children and teenagers like idiots. Everyone knows the health risks of smoking.”