New tobacco laws comes into effect with standardised packaging and no menthol cigarettes

Smoking costs the NHS £2.7 billion and the wider British economy a further £2.5 billion in sick leave and lost productivity

Matt Payton
Friday 20 May 2016 08:24 BST
The new law bans the selling of cigarettes in 10 packs
The new law bans the selling of cigarettes in 10 packs

A new EU law has come into effect that will change the way people buy cigarettes and other tobacco products.

From today, tobacco companies must sell cigarettes with the branding on the packaging restricted to a standard size, font and colour

All packs must have at least 20 cigarettes to ensure they are big enough or health warnings to cover 65 per cent of the front and back.

In the UK, the reach of the law goes still further and all packs must now be uniformally drab green with large images highlighting the damaging effects of smoking.

In addition, menthol cigarettes will now be phased out ahead of a total ban in 2020 along with promotional statements such as "this product is free of additives" or "is less harmful than other brands".

British Lung Foundation chief executive Dr Penny Woods said: "For too long glitzy, cleverly designed packaging has lured young people into smoking, a habit that takes the lives of half of all long-term smokers.

"Australia introduced plain packaging in 2012 and has already seen a decline in smoking rates. If just a fraction of the 200,000 children in the UK who start smoking a year are discouraged, thousands of lives will be saved."

It is hoped the law will reduce the number of smokers across the European Union by 2.4 million.

Currently around 100,000 premature deaths are caused by smoking in the UK with a further 600,000 across Europe.

According to the British Medical Association, smoking costs the NHS £2.7 billion and the wider British economy a further £2.5 billion in sick leave and lost productivity.

In May 2015, leading tobacco companies such as Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco launched a legal appeal calling the new rules "disproportionate".

The companies then lost a last-minute challenge in the High Court against the UK Government's packaging rules.

The director of the smokers' group Forest, Simon Clark, said the new packaging rules "treat adults like children and teenagers like idiots".

He added: "Everyone knows the health risks of smoking and no-one starts because of the packaging.

"Australia was the first country to introduce standardised packaging and it hasn't worked. There is no evidence to suggest that smoking rates have fallen among children or adults as a result of the policy.

"Plain packaging is a declaration of war on consumers because the aim is to de-normalise not just the product but also the millions of adults who enjoy smoking and don't want to quit."

In Australia, where the measure was introduced in 2012, smoking rates fell by more than 12 per cent between December 2013 and 2014.

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