Huge step for public health in South West as standardised "plain" packaging laws come into effect this week.
A South West-based public health organisation has celebrated the forthcoming introduction of standardised ‘plain’ tobacco packaging this week.
From Friday 20th May, cigarettes made for sale in the UK will have to be sold in drab green packaging with dramatic visual health warnings (see pictures above) . There will be a one year transitional period to allow for the sell-through of old stock, so from May 2017 cigarette and other tobacco products on sale in the UK must comply with the Regulations.
In January 2012, Smokefree South West became the first organisation in the northern hemisphere to call for a change to the way tobacco companies market their products, receiving over 211,000 sign-ups of support to the award-winning Plain Packs Protect campaign across the country.
The Plain Packs Protect campaign was supported by national partners, such as ASH and Cancer Research UK, to help raise awareness of the need to reduce the 340,000 children who try smoking for the first time every year and to highlight the truth behind tobacco packaging.
Kate Knight, Director of Smokefree South West, said: “This is a momentous day for public health in the region. Hundreds of children start smoking every day and for too long tobacco companies have used bright and glamourous packets to attract children to a deadly addiction which claims almost 100,000 lives in the UK every year.
“Standardised packaging has already reduced smoking rates in Australia . With this measure, we too can look forward to the inevitable reduced appeal of smoking to children which will help save thousands of lives.
“Smoking spreads death and disease as well as untold grief to thousands of families all over the country. Standardised packaging is supported by people across the South West. It’s one of the best legacies we can leave to our children and is a vital step towards our goal of a smokefree generation”.
The new law comes into effect at the same time as the revised European Union Tobacco Products Directive (TPD). This will require larger health warnings on the front and back of packets and prohibit slim 'lipstick'-style cigarette packs .
The new standardised packaging regulations, which received overwhelming support from MPs  are also backed by the public. YouGov data shows that 63% of adults in the South West of England support requiring tobacco to be sold in plain standardised packaging with the product name in standard lettering which we believe will help protect the next generation of children and young people from starting to smoke. 
Two thirds of current smokers started when they were children. Research shows that dull plain packs are less attractive to young people.  [To see the effects of attractive packaging click here for a short video produced by Cancer Research UK.]
Smokefree South West has led on a number of high profile programmes including smokefree Millennium Square in Bristol, the first outdoor open space in the UK to have a voluntary smoking code, and a number of social marketing campaigns to change the behaviour of smokers and raise awareness of tobacco control issues.
When Smokefree South West launched in 2008, around 1 in 4 (25%) of adults in the region were smoking - a figure which was above the national average.
Smoking rates in the region now stand at just under 17% – one of the lowest levels in England – according to the latest ONS General Lifestyle Survey.
Going forward, the organisation will continue to work on public health and behaviour change issues, under the name Public Health Action.
Notes and Links
Action on Smoking and Health is a health charity working to eliminate the harm caused by tobacco use. For more information see: www.ash.org.uk/about-ash. ASH receives core funding from Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation.
1. Click here for the full picture library of combined health warnings
3. 367 MPs voted in favour of standardised packaging and 113 voted against:. 11 Mar 2015: Column 379
4. YouGov: Smokefree Great Britain Survey, 2016 – research commissioned by ASH
5. Moodie et al. Plain Tobacco Packaging: A Systematic Review
6. Australian Government, Tobacco Plain Packaging Post Implementation Review, 2016