Global domino effect in implementing plain packaging

On March 16, the United Kingdom joined the ranks of the countries that introduced tobacco plain packaging rules. The House of Lords, UK’s upper chamber of Parliament, voted for the new law, after the lower chamber, the House of Commons, adopted it one week prior. This step has completed the legislative process and the law will become effective in May 2016.

The new law will standardize the packaging of all cigarettes and hand rolling tobacco for retail sale by:

  • specifying mandatory colours for retail packaging (dull brown for the outside and white for the inside);
  • permitting only specified text (such as the brand and variant name) and making sure any permitted text conforms to particular requirements;
  • allowing required markings such as health warnings and fiscal marks (including covert markings and any future requirements that may be introduced to tackle illicit trade) to remain in place.

Earlier, Public Health Minister Jane Ellison confirmed Government backing for the introduction of standardized packaging of tobacco: "Having considered all the evidence, the Secretary of State and I believe that the policy is a proportionate and justified response to the considerable public health harm from smoking tobacco."

“Introducing standardized packaging is highly likely to bring important public-health benefits," Health Minister Earl Howe, a Conservative, told the upper house. “We cannot let the vested interests of the tobacco industry control the public-health agenda."

The only other countries that have introduced plain packaging are Ireland, which approved a similar law earlier this month, and Australia, which claims the law, introduced more than two years ago, has been a great success.