Britain mulls adopting new cigarette Packaging
By FFE EU News Staff
The British government has just commissioned an independent review on the effects of standardised cigarette packaging to smokers. The aim is to introduce the new policy by 2015 in a bid to curb smoking.
A 1957 UK Medical Research Council study and a 1962 Royal College of Physicians study both revealed that smoking and lung cancer were directly linked. These reports spurred the British government to take concrete measures to discourage smoking for the first time.
Starting 1965, cigarette ads were banned from television. By 2005, a complete ban of all forms of tobacco advertising in the country was slowly implemented by the government. Many tobacco manufacturers are now limited to cigarette packets to advertise their brand, and how it looks like has been a topic of debate among many countries around the world.
Meanwhile, smoking bans were being introduced in public spaces. From 2006–2007, Britain enforced a smoking ban on enclosed public spaces like bars, restaurants and offices. This has been considered ‘one of the most important public health acts in the last century.’
A research funded by the Department of Health following the ban observed that there were fewer cases of premature births, asthma and heart attacks in the country. Many smokers’ groups, however, have decried the ban, saying it was a disaster for many pubs.
One of the first changes introduced to cigarette packets was the inclusion of graphic pictures showing the health consequences of smoking. The World Health Organisation said that these photos ‘significantly enhance the effectiveness’ of warning labels. When Canada enforced this policy, a study showed that smoking rates were cut by 12% and 20% from 2000 to 2009.
In 2012, Australia enforced the same policy on tobacco manufacturers. Health minister Tanya Plibersek said ‘This is the last gasp of a dying industry.’ Ireland and Scotland plan to follow Canada and Australia’s example as they have their own plans for plain packaging.
Findings published by the British Medical Journal said that since the policy was enforced in Australia last year, smokers found the habit less appealing while some found it urgent to quit. Those who bought plain packaging were 81% more likely to think about quitting while 70% more likely to find cigarettes less satisfying. However, the bigger questions like does it cut smoking rates haven’t been answered.
In Britain, the policy is still under debate among government officials. The independent review set by the government will still assess the feasibility of the policy in the local context. This will be led by paediatrician Sir Cyril Chantler, who is required to report by March 2014. A change in current policies on cigarette packaging is expected to take place before general elections on 2015.