A plain failure of policy

| May 16, 2018

Campaigners have called for an independent ‘root and branch’ review of the impact of all tobacco regulations introduced in the UK since 2010, including that requiring standardized tobacco packaging and a tobacco-products display ban at retail outlets.

The call came after evidence emerged that smoking levels had gone up since the introduction this time last year of standardized packaging and other measures.

‘According to independent research, recent statistics suggest that smoking rates in England were higher than for the same time last year before plain packaging was fully implemented on 20th May 2017,’ a Forest press note said.

‘The figures, published this week by the Tobacco Manufacturers Association, follows evidence that plain packaging has also failed to reduce smoking rates in Australia and France.’

‘In 2012 Australia became the first country in the world to impose standardized packaging on tobacco products. Five years after its implementation, data published by the Australian government showed that the measure had made no significant difference to the daily smoking rate.

‘Instead low-priced cigarettes doubled their market share between 2011 and 2016 (from 29 percent to 60 percent) at the expense of medium- and high-priced cigarettes (from 19 percent to 10 percent) as people switched to cheaper brands.

‘France introduced plain packaging of tobacco products in January 2017. One year later data published by the public authority OFDT showed that the number of cigarettes shipped to retailers remained largely unchanged, with a decrease of just 0.7 percent in 2017.

‘The failure of plain packaging to reduce smoking prevalence in France was acknowledged by health minister Agnès Buzyn during a parliamentary debate. According to the minister, plain packaging “does not lead smokers to quit smoking”. She added that she didn’t know if the introduction of plain packaging in France “has been effective in preventing youth from starting smoking”.

As well as standardized packaging, May 2017 saw the introduction of other tobacco control measures. The European Commission’s revised Tobacco Products Directive forced all EU member states to adopt larger health warnings and prohibit the sale of smaller packs of cigarettes and rolling tobacco. A ban on menthol cigarettes will follow in 2020.

“The experience of Australia, France and Britain suggests that plain packaging doesn’t lead to a decline in smoking rates,” said Simon Clark (pictured), director of Forest, the consumer group.

“Governments blunder on from one tobacco control measure to another, regardless of their impact.

“It’s time for an independent root and branch review of all the tobacco control measures introduced since 2010, including plain packaging and the behind-the-counter display ban.”

The failure of standardized packaging was said to be an indictment of the haste with which the policy was pushed through parliament before the 2015 general election.

“Plain packaging has nothing to do with health,” Clark said. “The decision to introduce it in the UK was based not on evidence that it would reduce smoking rates but on party politics.

“It wasn’t right then and it isn’t right now.”

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Category: Breaking News, Flavoring, Packaging, Regulation

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