News story

Government backs standardised packaging of tobacco

Cigarettes and hand rolling tobacco will have to be sold in standardised packs from May 2016.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government


After carefully considering the evidence for standardised packaging, and other relevant information, Public Health Minister Jane Ellison confirmed today (21 January 2015) that the government backs the public health case for introducing the policy. Ministers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will need to confirm whether they consent to the regulations applying to those parts of the UK.

Public Health Minister Jane Ellison said:

Smoking remains one of our most significant public health challenges. It is a major cause of cancer, heart and respiratory disease and almost 80,000 people in England alone die every year from ill health caused by smoking. It places an enormous strain on the NHS.

Having considered all the evidence, the Secretary of State and I believe that the policy is a proportionate and justified response to the considerable public health harm from smoking tobacco. The Chief Medical Officer has confirmed this view.

I now propose that we lay regulations for standardised packaging in this Parliament to allow for them to come into force at the same time as the European Tobacco Products Directive in May 2016. In doing so we would be bringing the prospect of our first smoke-free generation one step closer.

The proposed regulations, published in draft form as part of the last consultation, would standardise the packaging of all cigarettes and hand rolling tobacco for retail sale by:

  • specifying mandatory colours for retail packaging (dull brown for the outside and white for the inside)
  • permitting only specified text (such as the brand and variant name) and making sure any permitted text conforms to particular requirements
  • allowing required markings such as health warnings and fiscal marks (including covert markings and any future requirements that may be introduced to tackle illicit trade) to remain in place

The European Tobacco Products Directive will bring in a wider range of tobacco control measures, including:

  • bigger health warning pictures
  • a ban on flavourings, including menthol
  • packaging controls to combat illicit trade

Professor Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer for England, said:

I welcome the government’s backing for this policy. I have reviewed the evidence, and agree that standardised packaging would be a positive move for public health, particularly the role it could play in helping to prevent the uptake of smoking by children.

We have seen smoking rates decline, but smoking remains the single biggest cause of preventable mortality. We need to keep up our efforts on tobacco control and standardised packaging is an important part of that.

Published 21 January 2015