Today the laws around tobacco packaging have changed! Under new regulations voted for by MPs, tobacco and cigarettes can only be sold in plain, standardised packaging.
The decision to make these changes as a public health measure to protect children’s health was informed by the work of many researchers across the tobacco field. The UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies, its stakeholders and our researchers welcome this move to protect the UK population from being advertised to by tobacco branding and attractive images.
A systematic review of evidence of standardised packaging carried out by the Institute of Social Marketing at the University of Stirling showed that standard packs are less appealing, make health warnings more effective, and reduce the ability of the packaging to mislead consumers about the harms of smoking.
Under the new regulations, all tobacco products will be sold in dark green packages, with brand features and bright colours replaced with large graphic images of the effects of smoking and health warnings.
Gerard Hastings, Professor of Social Marketing said: “The introduction of plain packaging is another giant step forward in the fight against tobacco, which is still killing tens of thousands of people every year in Britain. Over the last two decades we have blocked the tobacco industry’s pernicious marketing in the media, in our shops and now on the pack itself. The big winners will be our children, who will escape being groomed for addiction and early death in the interests of private profit. Today is a day which every parent, every teacher and every child can cheer to the roof tops.”
Martine Stead, Deputy Director of the Institute for Social Marketing said: “We have examined evidence of the potential impact of standardised packaging from Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Canada and France. The evidence is clear: putting cigarettes into plain packs makes tobacco products, and smoking in general, less appealing to young people. People pay more attention to health warnings when packs have no distracting branding on them. The colour is also important as people assume white packs are somehow less harmful than darker coloured packs. This confusion disappears when all packs are the same dark colour.”
Crawford Moodie, Senior Research Fellow, said: “Australia remains the only country to have fully implemented plain packaging. Large national surveys with both adults and youth there show since the regulation was introduced, prevalence and consumption has declined, with fewer adults and young people smoking now than at any time since these surveys began. ,There’s also been an increase in the average age of smoking initiation and the proportion of never smoking. The evidence in favour of plain packaging is now stronger than it has ever been.”
Dr Jenny Hatchard, Research Fellow at the University of Bath said “Our research showed that tobacco company claims that plain packaging “wouldn’t work”, would increase the illicit trade in tobacco and would damage the economy were largely unfounded and based on low quality research. Yesterday’s High Court decision is an important moment for plain packaging and the positive impacts it will have on health. However, it also sends an important message that public health legislation cannot and should not be undermined by the poor quality evidence and opposition tactics of powerful corporations whose products damage our health.”
Also happening today are changes to the current rules around tobacco related products including e-cigarettes. This includes restrictions around advertising and promotion of e-cigarettes and how products containing different levels of nicotine are regulated.
Commenting on the developments to e-cigarette regulations, Linda Bauld, Professor of Health Policy, said: “Electronic cigarettes are now used by 2.8 million adults in the UK, with almost half of these users being ex-smokers. All existing research suggests that while e-cigarettes shouldn’t be promoted to children who have never smoked, they offer a far safer alternative for people who currently use tobacco.
New EU regulations on e-cigarettes are contained in one specific part of the TPD – Article 20 – which imposes new restrictions on these devices. TPD limits on nicotine concentration, tank size and e-liquid containers are not well supported by existing evidence. Only time will tell if Article 20 has unintended consequences, and this needs to be the focus of future careful research and monitoring.”
Side note: The evidence that e-cigarettes can help and have helped people stop smoking is growing and some people are worried that Article 20 of the TPD will affect the success of these products and have a substantial impact on the almost 3 million current vapers currently in the UK. This lead the House of Lords to table Article 20 of the TPD until June 20th at which time representatives will vote whether or not to implement that part of the legislation. With the EU referendum due soon after, the result of the vote will have huge ramifications on voters’ decision to vote to stay/leave the EU, a debate that is increasingly becoming polarised from both sides of the argument. Read more here.