Never mind government U-turns, the decision on plain packaging for cigarettes is the right one

Evidence from Australia indicates that uniform packs leave addicts likelier to consider kicking the habit

Share
Related Topics

Five months after the Government decided – to the frustration of health experts – to shelve the plan to force cigarette companies to forgo hi-tech modern packaging in favour of a deliberately consumer-unfriendly alternative, it seems that David Cameron has changed his mind.

When the policy was dropped, in July, it was simply politics. Together with the coalition plan to introduce a minimum per-unit price for alcohol (also, sadly, abandoned), drably standardised cigarette packaging had too strong a whiff of the nanny state for a Prime Minister concerned at the mood in his electoral heartlands. Lynton Crosby, the famously robust strategist brought in to give the flagging Tories some pep, was encouraging Mr Cameron to “remove the barnacles from the boat”, and what was once a sensible public health measure became state interference – and was duly dumped.

The move immediately fell foul of doctors and health campaigners, who have fought consistently to have it reinstated. But Mr Cameron’s political opponents also made hay, claiming the decision as evidence of the Prime Minister’s closeness to Big Tobacco. That Mr Crosby’s firm – Crosby Textor – had been engaged to help Philip Morris lobby against the proposal only added to the febrile atmosphere.

Now, however, the matter has a different complexion. Once again, it is politics that is forcing the Prime Minister’s hand – this time in the shape of a looming defeat in the House of Lords, where a cross-party group has tabled an addition to the Children and Families Bill that is all set to be passed. Rather than wait to be worsted in Parliament, the Government announced yesterday a review of the pilot scheme that began in Australia in 2011, to be completed by the end of March. If it is found to be effective, new rules could be in place before 2015.

The Government’s change of heart is couched in the language of equivocation. Just as the policy was never explicitly withdrawn, so its resurrection is simply that it is now the right time “to examine the emerging evidence” on its effectiveness. A U-turn is a U-turn, though, however obfuscatory its presentation. Coming as it does in a week in which the Government reversed its position on payday lenders and committed to introducing a cap on loan costs, Mr Cameron can expect another round of flak about weakness from his opponents and commendations of flexibility from his supporters.

When it comes to cigarette packaging, the decision – notwithstanding its tortuous route – is the right one. Those who would argue the contrary talk of rights infringed and smugglers encouraged. Hardly. Any who wish to smoke may still do so; plain packaging simply lessens the marketing appeal, particularly to the impressionable young. Indeed, claims that changing the packaging interferes with smokers’ enjoyment merely make the argument stronger. Early evidence from Australia indicates that uniform, brown packs leave addicts much more likely to consider kicking the habit.

The Independent is all for freedom of choice. But one must know what one is choosing. With cigarettes, dreary boxes and explicit health warnings make that clear. It is a shame about the Prime Minister’s prevarications. But at least he got it right in the end.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher Norwich

£25000 - £32000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Are looking ...

English Teacher, delightful Margate School

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: An experienced and qualified Tea...

Health & Social Care / Science Teacher

£1 per day + Main Teacher Pay Scale : Randstad Education Leeds: Health and Soc...

ICT Teachers for perm roles following Oct resignation period

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: IC...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: EU news, and other reasons to be cheerful

John Rentoul
The influx of hundreds of thousands of eastern European workers has significantly altered the composition of some parts of Britain  

Immigration is the issue many in Labour fear most

Nigel Morris
Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker