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Government sparks row with call for plain packet cigarettes

TOBACCO manufacturers are gearing up for battle over government plans to cut smoking by only allowing cigarettes to be sold in plain packaging.

British American Tobacco said yesterday that it would put up a “huge fight” over such a move, which it said would encourage criminals to mass produce fake products and leave purchasers with no way of knowing one brand from another.

Health secretary Andy Burnham is set to announce the government’s tobacco control strategy at a speech to the think-tank Demos today.

Its plans for halving smoking by 2020 also include rules to ban cigarette vending machines and tobacco displays in shops.

BAT said packaging aids consumer choice and there was no evidence to suggest plain packaging would cut the number of smokers.

A spokesman said the government would face a “huge fight” over the idea, including a legal battle over brands’ intellectual property.

Chris Ogden, chief executive of the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association, branded the plan “dictatorial and said imposing plain packaging would “do nothing to meet public health policy objectives but will instead impose further unwarranted restrictions on legitimate businesses and private citizens alike.”