Health Minister backs consultation plans for plain cigarette packaging

Mon, 16/04/2012 - 10:17 -- Editor

Health Minister Edwin Poots has lent his support to a UK-wide consultation on whether tobacco products should be sold in standardised, or plain packaging.

The consultation was launched today by UK Secretary of Health Andrew Lansley and will ask individuals whether they think standardised packaging will have an impact on people’s health and reduce the uptake of smoking.

Speaking about the consultation, the Minister Edwin Poots said; “I fully support the concept of plain packaging and value its potential as a tobacco control measure which could further help prevent young people from starting to smoke and support current smokers to quit.

“My commitment to this development was also highlighted in my Department’s new 10-year Tobacco Control Strategy which was recently launched in March. Reducing smoking prevalence is one of the biggest challenges we face in public health. Over 300,000 adults in Northern Ireland still smoke and it causes around 2,300 deaths each year. This is a shocking number of people and we must do all we can to discourage people from starting to smoke and support those who want to quit.”

The consultation suggests for the first time what requirements for standardised packaging could consist of, including no branding, a uniform colour and a standard font and text for any writing on the pack.

The consultation will seek views on whether:

  • tobacco packaging should remain unchanged;
  • plain packaging should be adopted; or
  • a different option should be considered.

    Respondents will also be asked to consider what the specific impact of standardised packaging could be, including whether it could:

  • reduce the appeal of tobacco products;
  • increase the effectiveness of health warnings;
  • impact on the tobacco industry and retailers;
  • encourage consumers to buy tobacco products abroad for their own consumption.

    The Minister continued: “I endorse this UK wide consultation exercise on plain packaging of tobacco products and hope everyone here in Northern Ireland will add their views to this important public health issue.”

    Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said:

    “Smoking remains one of the most significant challenges to public health. Each year it accounts for over 100,000 deaths in the UK and one in two long-term smokers will die prematurely from a smoking disease.

    “That is why the health ministers across the UK have a responsibility to look closely at initiatives that might encourage smokers to quit and stop young people not taking up smoking in the first place.

    “Through this consultation we want to hear as many views as possible about whether tobacco packing should remain unchanged, plain packaging should be adopted or a different option should be considered.”

    The consultation will be open for responses from 16 April to 10 July. Any person, business or organisation with an interest is encouraged to respond.

    Any decisions to take further policy action on tobacco packaging will be taken only after full consideration is given to consultation responses, evidence and other relevant information.