U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron has scrapped plans to force all cigarettes to be sold in plain packs, according to a story published today in The Sun.
Health ministers had been considering the move for a year. Proponents had insisted making packages bland would put smokers off — and stop kids from picking up the habit.
Cameron initially backed the plan, but has been persuaded it would damage the packaging industry. There were also concerns it could cost £3 billion in lost tax revenue and tie up the Commons in bitter arguments.
Cameron has now ordered the proposed law to be pulled from next week’s Queen’s Speech.
A Whitehall source said: “Plain packaging may or may not be a good idea, but it’s nothing to do with the government’s key purpose. The PM is determined to strip down everything we do so we can concentrate all our efforts on voters’ essentials. That means growth, immigration and welfare reform.”
Officials in Australia, the first to enforce uniform packaging, have admitted there was still no evidence that they cut smoking.
The tobacco giant Japan Tobacco International is preparing to challenge the Scottish Government’s plain cigarette packets plans in an advertising campaign this week, according to an article in The Scotsman.
It will reveal correspondence, obtained through Freedom of Information, from the Department of Health in which officials state there is no hard evidence to suggest the change will cut smoking levels.
SNP health minister Michael Matheson announced two weeks ago that Scotland would be the first part of the UK to introduce plain packaging and insisted this was based on “available evidence.” Scottish Government officials say the Public Health Research Consortium has found the plans will reduce attractiveness and stop youngsters taking up the habit.
The FOI correspondence, which has been seen by The Scotsman, but cannot yet be published, will be part of an advertising campaign and dates from 2011.
In December, Australia became the first country to use plain packaging for cigarettes.
The tobacco firm says that the Scottish public should be made aware of the full facts.
JTI UK managing director Jorge da Motta said: “We hope common sense will prevail and that the Scottish Government will disregard this proposal.”