30/11/2012 10:45 GMT | Updated 30/11/2012 11:12 GMT

Plain Cigarette Packaging Introduced In Australia To Deter Smoking, But Could The UK Be Next?

Sludge green packaging with gruesome pictures of rotting teeth, eyeballs, blackened lungs and suffering babies will become mandatory for tobacco in Australia on Saturday, as tough new legislation is introduced to help curb smoking.

The move has been heralded by anti-smoking and health groups in the country, and in the UK, with British campaigners urging the government to take similar steps.

According to the Daily Telegraph, smokers have reported saying their cigarettes now taste "pathetic" and "sickening".

smoking packaging

The new Australian cigarette packaging

A public consultation on plain packaging has already taken place in the UK, but a spokeswoman for the Department of Health told The Huffington Post UK they did not know when the research on the consultation would be completed.

She told The Huffington Post UK: "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 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."

Cancer Research UK, who surveyed 2,000 adults, found that 63% of Brits were now in favour of adopting the plain packs.

Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of British anti-smoking group ASH, has urged the government to take the lead from Australia.

She said in a statement: “Australia deserves the thanks of everyone concerned about the public health disaster that is smoking, for introducing plain standardised packaging and leading the way for the rest of the world.

"The tobacco industry is terrified of the removal of the last vestiges of advertising from their products and is spending millions of pounds in the UK to fight the measure.

"We trust our Government will calmly review the evidence and not be swayed by the distorted misinformation put out by the tobacco industry and its allies.”


A kiosk worker (below) looks at cigarette packets which are kept covered up by law in central Sydney

In Australia, no branding is allowed on packaging, leaving only the name printed in tiny black font. Shopkeepers have complained they are no longer able to sort the brands easily, or tell which is which unless closely inspected.

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.

Among the indigenous population, the rate is much higher, with 51% of men and 49% of women reported to be current daily smokers. Nearly 80% of the world's smokers live in low- and middle-income countries.

The Australian government, which has fought numerous, costly lawsuits in order to introduce the measure, says the aim is to deter young people from smoking.

Scott McIntyre of British American Tobacco Australia, told Reuters that it would boost black market trade. "There will be serious unintended consequences from the legislation."

"Counterfeiters from China and Indonesia will bring lots more of these products down to sell on the streets of Australia."