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Commons votes plain packs with big majority

The House of Commons in a 367-113 bipartisan vote opted to introduce uniform packaging for cigarettes and hand-rolled tobaccos, setting the stage for final parliamentary approval on 16 March, the Guardian reported.

Plain packaging would mandate a standard green/brown colour and limit branding on packs that mostly would display graphic health warnings. Approval in the House of Lords for a bill that currently applies only to England is expected, the newspaper said on its website. Regional authorities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland also are expected to adopt the plain packaging provisions.

Major tobacco companies have said they will contest standardised packaging in the courts, both in the UK and in Ireland, which earlier this week became the second country after Australia to approve plain packs. Two court challenges are pending against the Australian law. The UK version would take effect in May, 2016. In Ireland full implementation is planned one year later.

“This legislation is a case of the UK government taking property from a UK business without paying for it. That is illegal under both UK and European law”, said Jerome Abelman, corporate and regulatory affairs director at British American Tobacco. “Legal action is not something we want to undertake, nor is it something we enter into lightly – but the UK Government has left us with no other choice.”

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