In a bid to make cigarette smoking less appealing towards children, MPs are pushing for plain cigarette packaging.
In the early stages of 2011, shop owners will be expected to hide their cigarette displays.
Children have been attracted to the ”glitzy designs on packets” and “less attractive packaging” would help to prevent them from taking up smoking, according to health secretary, Andrew Lansley.
The reaction to the announcement has been met with mixed reaction, with smokers’group Forest stating that there was no evidence plain packaging would have any impact, and health campaigners fully behind the move.
Under the proposed legislation, the Department of Health may request tobacco companies to add only basic information, plus picture warnings to their packets.
The suggestions could support those in the process of giving up, and the suggestion of a simple, plain colour, may deter children from becoming attracted to taking up the habit in the first place.
Mr Lansley feels that every avenue needs to be looked into in order to deter people from smoking.
“The evidence is clear that packaging helps to recruit smokers, so it makes sense to consider having less attractive packaging. It’s wrong that children are being attracted to smoke by glitzy designs on packets,” Mr Langer explained.
“We would prefer it if people did not smoke and adults will still be able to buy cigarettes, but children should be protected from the start.
“The levels of poor health and deaths from smoking are still far too high, and the cost to the NHS and the economy is vast. That money could be used to educate our children and treat cancer.
“We will shortly set out a radical new approach to public health in a White Paper.”
Director of policy and research for Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), Martin Dockrell, believes packaging is very important for cigarette sales.
“They use it to seduce our kids and mislead smokers into the false belief that a cigarette in a blue pack is somehow less deadly than a cigarette in a red one,” Mr Dockrell revealed.
“By helping smokers who want to quit and protecting our children from the tobacco ad men this will be an enormous leap forward for public health, perhaps even bigger than the smoking ban.
“The government accepts that packaging and tobacco displays influence young people, so there is no time to waste. It may take years to pass a new law on plain packs but the law on tobacco displays is already on the statute books and comes into force next year.”
Public health professor at Kings College London, Dr Alan Marton-Davis, is pleased with the approach taken by the government.
“It’s a very welcome statement from the health secretary and a good example of how the government can help people choose a healthier way of life by ‘nudging’ rather than nagging,” he said.
Forest’s director, Simon Clark, isn’t swayed by the government’s actions.
“There is no evidence that plain packaging will have any influence whatsoever on smoking rates. Also, the policy is designed to discriminate against smoking and stigmatise the consumer, which is totally wrong,” he proclaimed.
Some evidence backs the suggestion to keep cigarettes out of sight in shops.
Tobacco Control recently found that cigarettes out of visible display not only altered the attitude of young people, but didn’t lose shop owners any money.