Westminster has passed legislation which could see a switch to plain packaging for cigarettes in England. In a parliamentary vote held yesterday (11 March), MPs voted in favour of the change by a majority of 254.The legislation is expected to pass through the House of Lords on Monday.
The plain packaging which would see all branding and colours replaced with large health warnings and the brand name in a generic font.
On No Smoking Day earlier this week (11 March), a number of charities across the eye health sector highlighted the risks of smoking on eye health, including increased risk of macular degeneration and cataracts. Research from the Royal National Institute of Blind People revealed that almost three out of four smokers may be unaware of the link between smoking and sight loss.
The plain packaging legislation has already been passed in two other countries, with Australia passing legislation in 2012 and the Republic of Ireland last month. However, in Australia, tobacco companies are battling the changes, citing issues around infringement of trademarks and trade agreements.
Imperial Tobacco, which manufactures brands such as Embassy cigarettes and Drum rolling tobacco in the UK, has said that it would sue the UK government if the move goes ahead.
“We have a fundamental right to differentiate our brands from those of our competitors” said Axel Gietz, director of group corporate affairs for Imperial Tobacco. He added: “Should plain packaging pass into law, we would regrettably be left with no choice but to defend our legal rights in court.”
Deborah Arnott, chief executive of charity Action on Smoking and Health, said: “The government, and MPs from all parties, are to be congratulated for resisting the ‘bully-boy’ tactics and misinformation of the tobacco industry and for implementing the most important public health reform of this Parliament.”