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England to Introduce Plain Packaging for Cigarettes – Will it Work?

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By Jamie Oliver

The legislation on plain packaging for cigarettes has been talked about for years and it never seems to materialise. However during the election earlier this year, most political parties (besides UKIP) vowed they would introduce this policy to try and combat one of Britain’s leading drug dependency problems. Up to now, it is unclear whether the current Conservative government will bring in the plain packaging policy. But is this scheme successful anywhere else in the world? Is there any supporting evidence?

The government has faced scrutiny and lobbying from the tobacco industry on the implications of plain packaging. However, the only believable and justified concern is the risk of tobacco smuggling becoming easier.

Health Minister Jane Ellison commented on the controversial subject, saying on the UK Gov website that plain packaging is a “proportionate and justified response” because of the long list of health risks associated with smoking. For example, smoking-related disease is still the main cause of preventable deaths in the UK, apparently killing more than 100,000 people per year. This overtakes obesity, alcohol abuse and many other deaths that could be prevented.

Australian_cigarette_pack_with_health_warning_December_2012

An Australian cigarette packet

Currently, cigarette packets in the UK has to display at least one health risk associated with smoking and recently they have started featuring graphic images of the damage that smoking does to the body. However in Australia, all brightly-coloured and slickly-designed packaging is illegal and they all have to feature a beige colour scheme with large picture health warnings. This was implemented to reduce the appeal to children and young people who may start smoking.

Ann McKechin, Labour MP commented on the success of this in Australia on her YourNextMP page for Glasgow North. She said: “Since the legislation was introduced in 2012, smoking rates have fallen dramatically. So much so that daily smoking levels have reached a historic low of 12.8% and the average number of cigarettes smoked is now just 96 per week as compared to 111 in 2010.”

So there has been a definitive change since the scheme was brought into Australia, backed up by statistics. However, there is no indication that it will discourage young people from starting smoking, which is one of the main hopes of the policy.

Jamie is a first year  multimedia journalism student, and would love to travel and work around the world, learning about new cultures.

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aAh!

aAh! Magazine is Manchester Metropolitan University's arts and culture magazine.

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