Greater Manchester’s Police and Crime Commissioner has welcomed an apparent U-turn by the government on the introduction of unbranded cigarette packets.
But Tony Lloyd has urged the government to stop dithering and get on with introducing the measure – which would save thousands of lives each year in the United Kingdom.
And he dismissed claims from the big tobacco firms that unbranded packaging would lead to an increase in the trade of illicit and counterfeit cigarettes.
Tony said: “Let’s be clear on this – the claim that unbranded packaging will lead to an increase in crime is absolute nonsense. It’s Big Tobacco’s smokescreen to mask their real concern – that unbranded packaging actually works and will put people off smoking.
“Senior police officers have been clear with me that the measures taken to prevent counterfeiting on standardised packages would be just as effective as those on the current branded cigarettes. So let’s put this lie to bed once and for all – standard packs will not benefit the illicit tobacco trade.”
The government has announced plans for an independent review into cigarette packaging – but Tony says the evidence is there already.
“We don’t need another review – we need action,” Tony added.
“Australia has had plain packaging for a year now and studies have shown that it has had a clear effect in putting people off cigarettes. Let’s not forget that here in the UK 600 children take up smoking every single day. Standardised packing will reduce that number and save lives.
“It will also help to reduce the number of people, especially children, smoking, which in turn will improve the health of our citizens and reduce the burden on our public health services.
“I welcome the news that the government has decided to look seriously at this issue again – but it’s time ministers stopped dithering on this and just got on with it.”
Andrea Crossfield, Director of Tobacco Free Futures which led the campaign for standardised packaging in Greater Manchester said: “This decision is excellent news for children and future generations in Greater Manchester.
“Support for standardised tobacco packaging in the region is strong; last year over 27,000 people in Greater Manchester urged the government to remove branding from cigarette packs and protect children during a public consultation. Greater Manchester local authorities and countless other organisations trusted with improving health and protecting children have backed the measure.
“Every day over 50 children will try smoking for the first time in the North West, so we need to act to reduce this. We have seen very positive results in Australia where the measure was introduced a year ago and I congratulate the government for deciding to look at the evidence now.”
More than 200,000 young people aged 11-15 take up smoking each year in the UK.
A major study on the impact of standardised packaging in Australia concluded that unbranded packets made smoking less attractive. It can be read here.
For more information about Tobacco Free Futures, visit their website at www.tobaccofreefutures.org
Click here for an infographic on smoking and children. From the www.plainpacksprotect.co.uk website.