UK government to consult on tobacco packaging rules

City A.M. Reporter
BRITAIN is to begin a wide-ranging consultation on plain packaging of tobacco products by the end of the year, informed by the legal challenges Australia has faced as the first nation to pass such legislation.

Australia’s parliament approved laws last month to introduce plain packaging from December 2012 to reduce the attraction of smoking, but three tobacco giants have launched lawsuits saying the laws infringe trademark rights, with Imperial Tobacco the latest to launch a challenge yesterday.

Under the legislation, cigarette, pipe tobacco and cigars will have to be sold in branding-free olive green packs displaying the product name in a plain typeface along with graphic health warnings. Governments in Europe, Canada and New Zealand will be watching closely.

In March, Britain’s health secretary Andrew Lansley announced plans to start considering a move towards plain packaging under a new tobacco control plan, but he gave no timescale.

“The tobacco control plan confirms a commitment to consult by the end of this year on options to reduce the promotional impact of tobacco packaging, including an option to require plain packaging,” said a department of health spokeswoman yesterday.

She added that the department was looking for expert legal advice on all aspects of a possible move before it publishes a consultation document that would look at the costs as well as the additional public health benefits of policy options.