David Cameron's 'u-turn on a u-turn' over cigarette packs is attempt to prevent Tories' tobacco firm links from becoming election issue

 

Whitehall Editor

David Cameron has attempted to prevent Tory links with big tobacco companies from becoming an election issue by paving the way for mandatory plain cigarette packaging.

The Tories had been accused by Labour of pandering to the commercial lobbying interests of their election strategist Lynton Crosby - whose company has links to the industry - when they announced they were backing away from plans to remove branding from cigarette package in July.

But in what was effectively a double u-turn ministers said on Thursday that they had now commissioned a rapid review of the effectiveness of the measure by the paediatrician Sir Cyril Chantler to be completed by March.

At the same time, changes will be made to the Children and Families Bill currently going through Parliament so that a ban on branded cigarette packets can be imposed "without delay" if the review concludes it is the right course.

If, as expected following its successful role out in Australia, the review finds that plain packaging is effective then the measure is likely to be on the statute book by 2015. 

This will allow the Conservatives to neutralise Labour attacks that the party is prepared to put the interests of the tobacco lobby ahead of public health.

Thursday's move was warmly welcomed by health campaigners but the tobacco companies said it would not have an impact on legal smoking levels and would simply lead to an increase in smuggling and counterfeit products.

Labour's shadow health minister Luciana Berger said ministers had been forced into "u-turning on a u-turn".

"The minister says we need another review but the Government have already had a review and the evidence is clear for all to see," she said.

"Standardised packaging makes cigarettes less attractive to young people. We should be legislating now, not delaying."

But the Public Health Minister Jane Ellison insisted that the Government had made clear last July that it was simply taking a "pause", following a public consultation in 2012, to consider the evidence from Australia.

Ms Ellison said that there would be no new public consultation and that Sir Cyril's review would have access to the submissions made in the course of last year's consultation.

"We will introduce standardised tobacco packaging if, following the review and consideration of the wider issues raised, we are satisfied there are sufficient grounds to proceed," she said.

However there was anger among some Conservative MPs who accused the Government of caving in to the "nanny state brigade".

"What we expect from Conservative ministers, who believe in individual freedom and individual responsibility, is to stand up to the health zealots and nanny state brigade who would ban everything and have everything in plain packaging if they could do so," said the Tory backbencher Philip Davies said: "

But Dr Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said there was "no question" that imposition of plain packaging would save thousands of lives in future.

"Stopping cigarettes being marketed to children as a glamorous and desirable accessory is one of the greatest gifts we can give the next generation," he said.

Simon Gillespie, chief executive of the British Heart Foundation, added: "Introducing standardised packs could prevent a generation of young people starting a deadly and highly addictive habit."

But British American Tobacco said the evidence from Australia showed that the "experiment" with plain packaging had failed.

"There has been no impact on legal tobacco volumes in Australia and the steady decline in tobacco consumption that Australia had experienced in recent years has actually eased, not increased, since the introduction of plain packaging," the company said in a statement.

"Instead, the evidence shows that the introduction of plain packaging of tobacco products has coincided with an increase in illicit trade."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...