U.K. campaigners against the standardized packaging of tobacco today launched an online campaign against the policy.
The No, Prime Minister campaign was created by the smokers’ group Forest, which runs the Hands Off Our Packs program.
The campaign features a letter that opponents of standardized packaging can send to the prime minister, David Cameron.
According to the letter, there is no credible evidence that children start smoking because of packaging, or that standardized packaging would deter children from smoking.
It calls on Cameron to wait until the government has studied the impact of the tobacco display ban, which will not be fully implemented until 2015, and the introduction of larger health warnings, which are being introduced in 2016 as part of the EU’s revised Tobacco Products Directive.
“Plain packaging is yet another attack on retailers and adult consumers,” said Simon Clark, director of Forest. “People are sick of being nannied by government. Britain needs to be protected from excessive regulation, not controlled by more and more legislation.
“A four-month government consultation resulted in over 665,000 responses with a substantial majority, 427,888, opposed to the policy. We urge the prime minister to respect the outcome of that consultation which members of the public responded to in good faith.”
The online ad campaign will run for 72 hours and will have total exposure on websites and blogs including Guido Fawkes, Conservative Home, Labour List, Liberal Democrat Voice, Left Foot Forward, UK Polling Report, Political Betting and Newsbiscuit.
Meanwhile, campaigners have responded to an open letter published in the BMJ in which more than 600 doctors, nurses and other NHS [National Health Service] professionals urge Cameron and the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to publish draft regulations on standardized tobacco packaging.
The letter warns there is a “relatively short time left” for the regulations to be introduced if they are to be voted on before next year’s general election, and asks the government to confirm they will be published in the next few weeks.
But Clark said the government was right to take its time.
The impact of standardized packaging on retailers and consumers could be extremely damaging, he said.
Evidence suggested that plain packaging could fuel the trade in illicit products and lead to the U.K. being flooded with fake cigarettes.
Urging the government to “keep an open mind” on standardized packaging, Clark said that if the consultation on the regulations was to have any meaning, ministers had to keep an open mind.
“A decision to introduce standardized packaging must be based on hard evidence that it will stop the next generation of children smoking,” he said.
“Conjecture and subjective opinion, which is all we’ve seen so far, are not enough.”