Plain cigarette packaging to be introduced in UK next year

Image by flickr user Raul Lieberwirth
Image by flickr user Raul Lieberwirth

The Government bid to introduce plain cigarette packaging in England has now cleared its final parliamentary hurdle, with the House of Lords backing the plans.

MPs has voted in favour of the measure last week, and plain cigarette packs will now be introduced in England next year, with Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland expected to follow.

The UK will be just the third country in the world to bring in plain cigarette packaging, following Australia and the Republic of Ireland.

Here’s a timeline showing how the measures came about in the UK.

November 2010

Then Health Secretary Andrew Lansley floated the idea of introducing plain cigarette packaging in a White Paper on public health. Government had been considering the idea for some time – with a previous proposal mooted in 2008 –and was also looking at that time at how tobacco was displayed in shops.

Speaking to us at the time of Lansley’s proposals, then JKR creative director Silas Amos said that while stopping teenagers from smoking is “undoubtedly a good thing”, removing branding from cigarettes could be counter-productive and give tobacco “more cachet” among youngsters.

July 2012

Tobacco company Japan Tobacco International hit out at what it described as a “lack of evidence” in the push from anti-smoking groups and the Government to standardise cigarette packaging.

The company ran a campaign, created by ad group Big Al’s Creative Emporium, which centred around the message that “the evidence that removing branding would reduce smoking… would fit on the back of a cigarette pack”.

Anti-smoking group Action on Smoking and Health refuted the clains, saying “the pack is known in the industry as the ‘silent salesman’. Putting cigarettes in plain, standardised packaging is the obvious next step.”

December 2012

Australia became the first country in the world to introduce plain cigarette packaging. The country introduced logo-free drab brown packaging following the 2011 Tobacco Plain Packaging Act.

Plain cigarette packaging in Australia
Plain cigarette packaging in Australia

March 2013

It was widely reported that the UK Government would announce legislation to bring in plain cigarette packaging in the Queen’s Speech in May 2013. However…

May 2013

A Government U-turn saw the plan to adopt plain packaging dropped. It was not mentioned in the Queen’s Speech – which sets out forthcoming Parliamentary legislation. Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “Just because something is not in the Queen’s Speech does not mean the Government can’t bring it forward as law. But we have not made a decision [on plain packaging].”

Image by flickr user Greg Knapp
Image by flickr user Greg Knapp

Meanwhile, as the UK stalled, the Republic of Ireland pledged that it would become the second country in the world, after Australia, to bring in plain cigarette packaging.

April 2014

After dropping plans for plain packaging, the UK Government had a dramatic change of heart, unexpectedly announcing that plain packaging was back on the table. Public Health Minister Jane Ellison said she wanted to introduce the measures “as swiftly as possible”.

June 2014

The Department of Health released images of what plain cigarette packs in the UK might look like.

The designs specify that only the brown Pantone 448C can be used for packaging, while text must be in Helvetica in Pantone Cool Grey 2C. The specifications add that “outside surfaces of packs would be drab brown with a matt finish” while “the inside surfaces of packs (internal packaging) would be white or drab brown”.

Image showing what plain cigarette packaging might look like in the UK
Image showing what plain cigarette packaging might look like in the UK

February 2015

A study by journal Addiction suggested that introducing plain cigarette packaging could save 2,000 lives a year. The Department of Health had previously suggested that the “expected health gain measured in life-years and monetised” if plain packaging is introduced would be £29 billion. Meanwhile the estimated cost to UK businesses if plain packaging was introduced was set at £36.78 million a year, with consultancies who create branded packaging for tobacco companies among those taking the hit.

March 2015

After being voted through by MPs, plans to introduce plain cigarette packaging in the UK were passed in the House of Lords without a vote. Barring any further hurdles, plain cigarette packaging will become mandatory in England from May 2016.

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  • Matt Temple March 18, 2015 at 10:20 am

    Surely this creates an opportunity for the cigarette brands to create a new generation of boldly branded cigarette cases. These could be sold/given away to smokers and will be free of any legal texts, anti-smoking messages, barcodes etc. These cases/sleeves will slip over a box of unbranded cigarettes covering all the deliberately unpleasant images and warnings.

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