UK
28/11/2013 04:35 GMT | Updated 28/11/2013 04:53 GMT

Cigarette Packaging U-Turn As Cameron Is Set To Announce Ban On Advertising

Just when it seemed the government had ditched the idea, David Cameron is poised to announce plain packaging for cigarettes after all.

The Prime Minister is reportedly going to ban branded cigarette wrapping - having originally decided last July not to proceed with the plans.

Campaigners welcomed the news, with Cancer Research saying it would save thousands of lives.

Ministers insist it's not a u-turn, as they had previously said they were waiting to see how it worked in Australia.

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Reports from Down Under suggest the measure made youngsters 81% more likely to consider quitting smoking, The Times reported.

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According to the paper, plain-packaged cigarettes will be in shops before the next election, following another Government review of the situation in Australia.

It is expected to report back in March and support the case for changing packaging, according to the newspaper.

The Department of Health would not comment on reports, other than to say that an announcement would be made today.

Labour is in favour of the anti-smoking measure and has accused the Tories of ''bringing big tobacco to the heart of

Downing Street'' by hiring lobbyist Lynton Crosby as a key election adviser. Mr Crosby denies having ''any conversation or discussion'' with Prime Minister David Cameron on the issue.

Shadow public health minister Luciana Berger urged the Government to act now, rather than await the results of its review.

She said: "We need immediate legislation for standard cigarette packaging, not another review. The Government needs to stand up to the tobacco industry's vested interests.

"The evidence to support standardised packaging is clear. The consensus is overwhelming. We don't need any further delay while 570 children are lighting up for the first time every day."

Health charity Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) has hailed the expected announcement.

Chief executive Deborah Arnott said: "This decision is a victory for public health, for common sense and for future generations who will as a result be protected from glitzy, colourful and misleading tobacco packaging.

"The Government should be given due credit for being willing to listen to Parliament and to the experts and change its mind."

Conservative backbencher Bob Blackman warned earlier this month that if regulations to introduce plain packaging were not brought in by Christmas, the Government could face the prospect of an MPs' vote.

The Harrow East MP said there was adequate evidence from the Department of Health to support standardised packaging and that tobacco control should be treated as a high priority.

He told the Commons: "'We want to remove the last aspects of advertising that the tobacco industry has. At the moment there is still an attractive promotional aspect of tobacco, which is the packaging.

Health minister Jane Ellison said at the time that even if standardised packaging was introduced immediately, discussions would still be needed to discuss how to stop children smoking.

Mark Littlewood, director general of the Institute of Economic Affairs, said: "This could potentially be a very disappointing u-turn by the Government.

"Plain packaging will have a negligible impact on health, will boost the black market, and do enormous harm to small businesses.

"In the words of David Cameron, let's treat adults like adults and give them more responsibility over their own lives."

"It's about time the Government looked towards education rather than even heavier regulation of a legal product enjoyed by millions of ordinary consumers."

Dr Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said: "Stopping cigarettes being marketed to children as a glamorous and desirable accessory is one of the greatest gifts we can give the next generation.

"If this becomes law next year there is no question that it will save thousands of lives in the future."