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August 11th, 2012:

UK Plain Tobacco Packs Review Ends

LONDON–A U.K.-wide consultation on government plans to introduce mandatory plain packaging for tobacco closed Friday, as the government seeks to make smoking less attractive and improve public health.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has said while he is “open-minded” about the public consultation, the government believes attractive branding encourages smoking, which remains a significant challenge to public health.

More than 300,000 children under 16 years try smoking each year and 5% of children aged 11 years to 15 years are regular smokers, according to government data.

Tobacco manufacturers, including British American Tobacco PLC (BATS.LN), Imperial Tobacco PLC (IMT.LN) and Japan Tobacco Inc. (2914.TO), say there is no evidence that plain packaging influences tobacco consumption among young people. (CLEAR THE AIR says: so this is why they are spending $ millions worldwide to fight generic packaging which will remove their last line of advertising attraction = the packet appeal = ‘the silent salesman’.)

“We are concerned that the [government’s] research into the potential benefits of plain packaging relies on insufficient and unreliable evidence that fails to prove the crucial link between packaging and any reduction in smoking,” said Phil Morse, UK & Ireland general manager for British American Tobacco.

The industry lobby is also concerned that generic packs–which would prevent manufacturers from using logos or colors–will bring about rises in illicit trade and intellectual property infringements.

It says plain packaging affects consumer choice and adds a rise in counterfeit consumption would lead to manufacturing job losses, as well as hitting the revenue of shopkeepers. (THIS IS A POLICING MATTER)

If the policies are implemented, the U.K. would become the first European Union country to introduce plain cigarette packs, representing a further blow to the industry as it resists a wave of measures in the country to curb smoking. Laws banning the display of tobacco products in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are due to be enforced in all shops from April 2015. There are also bans on vending machine sales and on smoking in public places.  Australia has passed a law to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes that is due to come into effect at the end of this year, despite strong opposition from tobacco companies who are challenging the move in the courts.

Write to Simon Zekaria at

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