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Plain cigarette pack plans on hold
12th July 2013 - The government has put on hold plans for cigarettes to be sold in plain packs in England.
The decision has been criticised by health charities.
Plain packaging for tobacco would restrict or end the use of logos, colours, brand images or promotional information on packaging other than the brand and product names in standard lettering.
The British Heart Foundation says there's good evidence that plain packaging would help reduce the attractiveness and appeal of tobacco products, particularly among young people, and increase the prominence and effectiveness of health warnings.
Ministers say they want to wait to see what effect the measure has had in Australia, the first country to introduce plain packaging. New Zealand and Ireland have also opted to follow Australia's lead.
The decision follows a consultation process which gathered more than 668,000 responses, which the Department of Health says was "highly polarised with strong views put forward on both sides of the debate."
Of those who provided detailed feedback, around 53% were in favour of standardised packaging while 43% thought the government should do nothing about tobacco packaging.
In a statement, health secretary Jeremy Hunt says: "Obviously we take very seriously the potential for standardised packaging to reduce smoking rates, but in light of the differing views, we have decided to wait until the emerging impact of the decision in Australia can be measured, and then we will make a decision in England.
"This decision is an important one and whilst we keep it under review, we’ll be continuing to implement our existing plan to reduce smoking rates through ending the display of tobacco in all shops, running national behaviour change campaigns to encourage smokers to quit and through supporting local authorities to provide effective stop smoking services."
The decision has been welcomed by the campaign group Hands Off Our Packs. In a statement, Angela Harbutt from the group says: "Ministers have listened to ordinary people. This is good news for those who believe in consumer freedom and are opposed to excessive regulation."
However, several health groups have issued statements criticising the decision.
Eileen Streets, director of tobacco control at Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, is "dismayed" that the plans have been shelved: "The longer the introduction of the policy is delayed, the more children will take up this deadly habit. We know around 150,000 children start smoking every year, which is 12,500 more children taking up the habit for each month the legislation is delayed."
Dr Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK's chief executive says: "This decision is bitterly disappointing and lives will be lost as a result.
"The Government has stalled in the face of strong evidence and instead reacted to myths perpetuated by the tobacco industry, an industry well-known for suppressing the truth about its lethal products."