Could plain packaging for cigarettes be more than just smoke without fire?
The move is set to be announced in the Queen's speech in May, according to a Department of Health source in the Guardian, which also reported that smoking in cars carrying under 16s would also be illegal.
A Department of Health spokesperson said they could not confirm the Guardian's story, nor did they know its source.
The new Australian cigarette packaging
The DoH began a consultation in March 2011 on plain packaging for cigarettes, and has been analysing results since last August. "We have received many thousands of responses to the tobacco packaging consultation. We are currently in the process of carefully collating and analysing all the responses received," the spokesman said.
"The Government has an open mind on this issue and any decisions to take further action will be taken only after full consideration of the consultation responses, evidence and other relevant information."
Sludge-green packaging with gruesome pictures of rotting teeth, eyeballs, blackened lungs and suffering babies is now mandatory for tobacco in Australia, as tough new legislation is introduced to help curb smoking.
Smokers were reported in local media as saying their cigarettes now taste "pathetic" and "sickening".
Cancer Research UK, who surveyed 2,000 adults, found that 63% of Brits were now in favour of adopting the plain packs.
Around one billion people smoke worldwide, according to the World Health Organisation, but the UK has lower smoking rates than Australia. In Oz, smoking is in decline, with figures around 23% of the population currently smokers, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Many fear that plain packaging will be a gift to black market trade and smuggling of cigarettes. Roy Ramm, Former Commander of Specialist Operations at New Scotland Yard, wrote in HuffPost UK that it would be "disastrous if the government, by introducing plain-packaging legislation, removes the simplest mechanism for the ordinary consumer to tell whether their cigarettes are counterfeit or not.
"Once you've forged one packet with the name of the product on it, you've forged them all. Secondly, if it is easier to fake the packet, then it will be encouragement for organised crime groups to produce more and more fake tobacco to contain within them."
His warning was echoed by Peter Sheridan, former Assistant Chief Constable, Head of Organised Crime in Northern Ireland, who told HuffPost UK: "Unless these questions are answered first, the potential introduction of plain packaging jeopardises the hard work, collaboration and individual bravery shown by our law enforcement agencies and unwittingly will create a fertile ground for tobacco smuggling."
But Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of British anti-smoking group ASH, has urged the government to take the lead from Australia: “Smoking remains the major preventable cause of premature death and is the primary reason why the health of our nation is lagging behind that of other developed countries.
"The government is to be congratulated for being first in Europe to commit to getting rid of the brightly coloured packs designed to attract children and young people to replace the 100,000 smokers who die each year. This is both justified by the evidence and is popular with the public.”
Earlier on HuffPost:
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