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Alex criticises Government consultation on tobacco packaging

The case for standardised packaging of tobacco products is strong, and the need for action is urgent, yet the Government is flying in the face of public opinion by deciding to hold yet another consultation exercise, said Alex Cunningham.

Labour’s Stockton North MP, who has been a vociferous campaigner for the introduction of standardised packaging, has accused the Government of condemning yet more young people to the harm that is likely to arise as a direct result of further delaying the publishing of the necessary regulations.

Enabling legislation, which allows the Government to bring forward secondary legislation to implement measures requiring standardised packaging for tobacco products, was passed by MPs in February.  But despite overwhelming evidence in support of such a move, the Government has decided once more to consult on the matter.

Sir Cyril Chantler’s independent report is the latest in a growing body of research to find evidence suggesting that similar legislation in Australia has had a positive impact.  A systematic review of 37 peer-reviewed studies, carried out by the University of Stirling for the Department of Health, earlier found standard packaging to be less attractive while improving the effectiveness of health warnings.

Alex said:

“Every year, more than 200,000 people under the age of 16 start to smoke.  This is 200,000 too many, and if plain packaging even halves this number of new young smokers, it would have a major impact on many lives.

“Since the review by the University of Stirling, there have been numerous additional studies published, and the growing body of research consistently reports that standardised packaging would reduce the appeal of tobacco products and increase the effectiveness of health warnings.  While I welcome the findings of Sir Cyril’s review, the Chantler Report is just the latest in a long line of evidence substantiating the need for standardised packaging.

“However, by opting for yet another consultation exercise, the Government is putting the health of more young people in jeopardy while risking losing vital momentum in the battle to ensure that legislation is enacted.  In simple terms, thousands more young people will take up smoking than would have done had the Government acted more quickly

“Sadly the draft regulations did not include the ones to ban smoking in cars with children present and I will now be questioning the Minister on when we can expect them to be brought forward.”