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Unbranded Cigarette Packets Plan

Unbranded Cigarette Packets Plan In New Crackdown On Smoking

Proposals to put heavy restrictions on marketing
Consultation paper opens 12-week national debate

John Carvel, social affairs editor – The Guardian – Saturday May 31, 2008

Under government proposals issued for consultation today, tobacco companies would be obliged sell cigarettes in plain packets, stripped of corporate logos, emblazoned with health warnings.

Further restrictions on the marketing of tobacco products in England have been drawn up by ministers to stop adults smoking and discourage young people from taking up the habit. These include:

· Banning the sale of cigarettes in pack sizes of less than 20, in an attempt to make smoking less accessible to young people who can only afford a pack of 10.

· Banning cigarette vending machines or converting them to take tokens that could only be purchased with proof of age.

· Restricting the display of tobacco products in shops, possibly by requiring they are placed under the counter.

· Banning the advertising of cigarette papers and other smoking paraphernalia.

The proposals are in a consultation paper entitled The Future of Tobacco Control that is being issued by the Department of Health to trigger a 12-week national debate.

A spokeswoman said the government is definite about wanting to restrict the display of tobacco products and limit access to vending machines – measures proposed by the devolved government in Scotland last week. But ministers are more open-minded about the other ideas. She said the proposals were targeted mainly at young people, who were considered to be more susceptible to brand advertising.

Dawn Primarolo, the public health minister, said: “Protecting children from smoking is a government priority and taking away temptation is one way to do this. If banning brightly coloured packets, removing cigarettes from display and removing the cheap option of a pack of 10 helps save lives, then that is what we should do – but we want to hear everyone’s views first.”

Dr Vivienne Nathanson, head of science and ethics at the British Medical Association, said: “It is good news that the government has taken many of our recommendations on board. It is essential that cigarettes are made more inaccessible to children and one way to do this is to ban 10-packs of cigarettes and to get rid of tobacco vending machines.”

Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said: “Two-thirds of smokers start before the age of 18. We need to aim to stop today’s children from starting to smoke and becoming part of these unacceptable and wholly preventable statistics.”

But the Tobacco Alliance, which represents more than 16,000 independent retailers across the UK, said: “Seeing tobacco on display in shops is not a significant cause of youth smoking and banning it will not solve the problem.” A poll for the alliance found 94% of people believed the main reason under-18s started smoking was because friends and family smoked, and because teenagers regarded it as an act of rebellion.

Simon Clark, director of the smokers’ lobby group Forest, said: “Banning point-of-sale display will make smoking even more attractive to teenagers. Worse, it will drive many smokers towards cheaper counterfeit and smuggled cigarettes … yet again, freedom of choice and personal responsibility are being sacrificed by politicians who think they know best.”

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