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Introduce standard cigarette packets now

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: (Published 15 May 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f3145
  1. Robert West, Cancer Research UK director of tobacco studies, Health Behaviour Research Centre, University College, London WC1E 6BT
  1. robert.west{at}

Has the UK government kowtowed to tobacco industry lobbying? The argument for plain tobacco packaging is clear—it would save lives—and the arguments used against it are false, argues Robert West

Public health experts were disappointed and surprised not to see legislation to introduce standard packaging for cigarettes included in the Queen’s speech. The idea behind standard packaging is simply to prevent tobacco companies from using the cigarette packets to market products that are toxic and addictive. Cigarettes would be sold in standard packs that would carry health warnings and the name of the brand.1

Tobacco companies would not be permitted to construct packs to look like lipstick holders or perfume boxes, or to use stylish designs and colours to tap into or build an identity or create positive feelings about their contents. Australia has already put this legislation into place.

Cigarettes would never be allowed to be sold if they were introduced today (we have regulations preventing sale of ingestible products containing high levels of carcinogens), and the principle of preventing tobacco companies from marketing cigarettes is already established. Most of the adult population of England supports the legislation.2 There is clear evidence that the move would reduce the attractiveness of cigarettes to …

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