The Government has announced that it is minded to introduce regulations to provide for standardised packaging of tobacco products, subject to a short consultation.
The announcement follows Sir Cyril Chantler presenting the report of his independent review into whether or not the introduction of standardised packaging is likely to have an effect on public health, particularly for children, to the Government.
The report makes a compelling case that if standardised packaging were introduced it would be very likely to have a positive impact on public health and that would include health benefits for children.
The report states that branded packaging plays an important role in encouraging young people to smoke and that it is highly likely that standardised packaging would serve to reduce the rate of children taking up smoking. It also concludes that standardised packaging is likely to contribute to a modest but important reduction in smoking and therefore have a positive impact on public health.
In light of this review and the responses to our consultation in 2012, Health Ministers are currently minded to proceed with introducing regulations to provide for standardised packaging.
Across the UK, over 200,000 children aged between 11-15 start smoking every year – this equates to around 600 children starting smoking every day. Sir Cyril Chantler’s review makes the point that if this rate was reduced by just 2 per cent it would mean that 4,000 fewer children would be taking up smoking each year.
Public Health Minister Jane Ellison said:
Smoking kills nearly 80,000 people each year in England alone and our cancer outcomes stubbornly lag behind much of Europe. Quite apart from the enormous pressure this creates on the NHS, it is a cruel waste of human potential.
Yet we know that the vast majority of smokers want to quit and even more tragically we also know that two thirds of smokers become addicted before they are 18. As a nation therefore we should consider every effective measure we can to stop children taking up smoking in the first place.
I would like to thank Sir Cyril and his team for their work and for their thorough analysis of the evidence on standardised packaging.
However, in order to ensure that the decision is properly and fully informed, the Department of Health intends to run a final short consultation so that any further or new views can be considered. That consultation will include draft regulations so that it is clear what is intended. The Department of Health aims to publish this consultation by the end of April.
The further consultation on standardised packaging will ensure that all stakeholders can see from the detail of draft regulations what standardised packaging would mean in practice and provide an opportunity for those with an interest to highlight anything new since the last consultation that is relevant to making a decision on this policy.
Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies said:
Smoking is the greatest preventable cause of death in the UK. One in two smokers die as a direct result of smoking and it can lead to many serious illnesses, such as cancer and coronary heart disease, that can result in disability, pain and distress for individuals and communities.
Already in this country we have made considerable progress in reducing the prevalence of smoking and the consequent burden of disease but there is more to be done – it is particularly important that we continue to focus on discouraging children and young adults from taking up smoking.
This review only reinforces my beliefs of the public health gains to be achieved from standardised packaging.
So far, only Australia has implemented legislation requiring plain packaging of tobacco. However, New Zealand and the Republic of Ireland have also committed to introducing standardised packaging.
The move follows other measures by the Government to tackle smoking, most recently amendments to the Children and Families Act to make it an offence to smoke in cars carrying children and for an adult to buy cigarettes for children and to set an age of sale for e-cigarettes.
Notes to Editors
Sir Cyril Chantler’s Review.
Public Health Minister Jane Ellison’s oral statement to the House of Commons.
The Department of Health held a consultation on standardised packaging of tobacco products in 2012. The consultation document and the summary report was published in July 2013.
The Government asked Sir Cyril Chantler to undertake an independent review to look at whether there is likely to be an effect on public health, particularly for children, if standardised tobacco packaging were to be introduced in November 2013. The terms of reference were:
To give advice to the Secretary of State for Health, taking into account existing and any fresh evidence, as to whether or not the introduction of standardised packaging is likely to have an effect on public health (and what any effect might be), including in relation to the health of children. It will be a matter for the Chair to determine how he undertakes this review and he is free to draw evidence from whatever source he considers necessary and appropriate.
The review will report by March 2014.
It will be an independent review, with advice to the Secretary of State contained in a report. An independent secretariat will be appointed by the Chair, who will set out the method of how he will conduct the review in more detail in due course. The secretariat will be wholly accountable to the Chair, and it will be for the Chair to guide and task them in their work as he sees fit.
Sir Cyril Chantler is Honorary Fellow and past Chairman of University College London Partners, and Non-Executive Chairman of the Quality and Clinical Risk Committee of NHS England. He was Professor of Paediatric Nephrology and Consultant Paediatrician at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital, and Principal of the United Medical and Dental School of Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital and Vice-Principal for Health at King’s College London.