News & Comment

Should cigarettes have plain packets?

Fri 27th January, 2012

Yes, says Maura Gillespie of the British Heart Foundation. No, says Simon Clark, director of Forest. 

In a head-to-head debate in The Times, Clark disputed Gillespie's argument that branding on cigarette packs is an important factor in children taking up smoking.

He wrote: "Plain packs will do nothing to protect children. Laws to deter children from smoking or gaining access to cigarettes already exist. Tobacco vending machines were outlawed in England last year and since October 2007 it has been illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone under 18 in the UK. Shopkeepers and proxy purchasers who flout the law should face serious penalties but the law isn't rigorously enforced. Before government introduces more legislation, adding to the burden of regulation, it should enforce those laws that already exist."

Nonense, argued Gillespie. "To prove just how powerful branding can be, more than a quarter of young regular smokers we surveyed thought one brand was less harmful than another based on the packet design alone ... Our survey also showed that one in six young people would consider the pack design when deciding which cigarettes to buy."

Dismissing such surveys as "speculative opinion polls", Clark added that "there is nothing to suggest that uniform packaging will make smoking less attractive to children and young people. Campaigners said the same thing about graphic health warnings but the impact has been marginal."

Source: The Times (27 January 2012)

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