Counting down to standardised “plain” packaging of cigarettes

There are now five days to go until all cigarettes on sale in the UK must be in standardised “plain” packaging. The legislation mandating the change came into force in May 2016, with a one year transitional period to allow retailers and manufacturers to sell old stock. This transitional period comes to an end at midnight on Friday. See the ASH briefing on standardised “plain” packaging here for more information.

Over the next few days we’ll be counting down to the end of this transitional period and highlighting the most egregious sorts of packaging that from Saturday will be illegal. We will also explain why the switch to standardised plain packaging is such a powerful positive step for public health.

A pink Pall Mall cigarette packet

The first packet in our rogues’ gallery is this pink packet of 20 Pall Mall cigarettes manufactured by British American Tobacco. This is a good example of how tobacco companies rely on their pack design to promote their products, and also how tobacco products are often made to appear appealing to children. Take a look at this short video created by Cancer Research UK which shows how alluring this pink pack is to young girls (from 40 seconds onwards).

The new legislation means that Pall Mall cigarettes will now be sold in packs like this.

Pall Mall cigarettes in the standardised “plain” packaging

The new packaging rules mean that all cigarettes are sold in drab green packaging with much larger pictorial health warnings. Manufacturers must use standard font, size and colour for any text. Evidence from Australia [1] shows that not only does standardised “plain” packaging encourage more people to try to quit smoking, it makes cigarette packs much less appealing to children.

Getting rid of glitzy, heavily branded tobacco packs is the latest in a long line of achievements by the UK which is a global leader in tobacco control. We now have among the fastest declining smoking rates in the world thanks to decades of sound policy, but smoking rates among the poorest and most disadvantaged remain high. If this is to change then a priority for the next Government must be to publish a new tobacco control plan with tough new targets, focused on tackling health inequalities.

Reference

[1] http://ris.pmc.gov.au/sites/default/files/posts/2016/02/Tobacco-Plain-Packaging-PIR.pdf (PDF download)

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