Up in Smoke: UK Looks to Adopt Plain Cigarette Packaging to Combat Smoking

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Big Tobacco has been fighting against plain packaging for years as a global health trend continues to push an anti-smoking agenda. By blocking the brand names, some of the products will lose a major part of their social cachet, one of the reasons some smokers even get started.

According to The Guardian, the UK will announce possible plain packaging regulations this Thursday. Back in April, Public Health Minister Jane Ellison had promised that such regulations would be presented by the end of that month, and the tardiness has created concern among public-health advocates.

The regulations won’t guarantee plain packaging in the UK, but will bring it closer to reality.[more]

Australia was the first country to introduce plain packaging in December 2012, with cigarette sales dropping 3.4 percent in comparison to the previous year. New Zealand and France are also planning to only allow the sale of cigarettes in plain packaging, and Ireland appears close to enacting a similar law with the introduction of a bill in parliament soon.

“Tobacco is a killer product and it is misleading for it to be presented in glitzy packaging,” said Simon Gillespie, chief executive of the British Heart Foundation. “Every day of delay allows the tobacco industry to tempt more young people into adopting a deadly habit.” 

“The objective of the Bill is to make tobacco packs look less attractive to consumers, to make health warnings more prominent and to reduce the ability of the packs to mislead people, especially children about the harmful effects of smoking,” said Minister for Health James Reilly. 

“Given all we know about the dangers of smoking, it is not acceptable to allow the tobacco industry to use deceptive marketing gimmicks to lure our children into this deadly addiction and to deceive current smokers about the impact of their addiction.”

Big Tobacco, of course, isn’t taking this laying down. According to Fox Business, Philip Morris International is challenging Europe’s new tobacco laws and filed papers Friday “seeking a review of the EU’s Tobacco Products Directive,” which “requires measures including pictorial and text health warnings across 65 percent of tobacco packages, deeper track and trace capabilities to fight the illicit trade in cigarettes and a ban on menthol cigarettes after a four-year phase-out period,” that was put into effect last month.

Philip Morris, meanwhile, just bought England-based electronic cigarette business Nicocigs as the latest limb of the tobacco industry continues to gain in popularity. In fact, a major player in the vapor market, Blu E-cigs, recently said—then recanted—that its brand was working with Lady Gaga on a promotion. Gaga or not, Blu has already snagged stars like Jenny McCarthy to hawk its products, setting health advocates into a flurry. 

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