Plain cigarette packaging is 'the right policy' for the UK, says public health authority

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Plain packaging for cigarettes is “the right policy for the country” and will be of particular benefit in protecting children from the dangers of smoking, England’s public health authority has said.

In findings that will increase pressure on the Government to adopt standardised packaging, Public Health England (PHE) outlined “compelling evidence” for the policy’s effectiveness, in response to an independent review by the leading paediatrician Sir Cyril Chantler.

The Government delayed introducing standardised packaging last summer, amid accusations that the Conservative party’s strategist Lynton Crosby, whose PR firm has acted for the tobacco giant Philip Morris Ltd, had influenced policy. Ministers said they wanted more time to assess the evidence.

Sir Cyril’s review was launched in November, and he will report in March.

In their response, PHE said that there was evidence plain packs reduced the attractiveness of cigarettes, made health messages stronger and made people more willing to quit smoking.

“The exploitation of children who are drawn to cigarette packaging designed to attract them can be countered by the introduction of standardised packaging,” their statement said.

Their response came as new evidence emerged from Australia, where standardised packaging was introduced in 2012, that phone calls to the country’s quit smoking helpline increased by 78 per cent immediately after plain packs appeared on shelves, although the increase slowed over time.