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."

News
Alan Bennett has criticised the “repellent” reality shows which dominate our screens
tvBut he does like Stewart Lee
Life and Style
The Google Doodle celebrating the start of the first day of autumn, 2014.
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
i100
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
News
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Life and Style
food + drink
News
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
News
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
news
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
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

Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

High Level Teaching Assistant (HTLA)

£70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

Teaching Assistant

£50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits