MPs Back Plain Cigarette Packaging

11 March 2015, 17:33 | Updated: 11 March 2015, 17:39

Anti-smoking groups were "over the moon'' today as a vote to enforce standardised tobacco packaging was passed in the House of Commons.

Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) said plain packaging on tobacco products will protect the next generation from taking up the habit.

Chief executive Deborah Arnott 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.''

The regulations will now pass to the House of Lords where a vote is expected to take place next week.

If passed, the new rules are expected to take effect from May next year.

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) described the move as a "landmark victory that will save thousands of lives''.

Chief executive Simon Gillespie said: "This is a landmark victory that will go a long way to reducing smoking rates, improving the nation's health and saving thousands of lives.

"Too many families are devastated every year by losing a loved one to the deadly consequences of smoking.

"This new law will help prevent young people from starting this toxic habit by reducing the appeal of colourful packs.

"Evidence shows that standardised packs are working in Australia to make smoking less attractive and we are delighted it will now be implemented here.

"This is a significant step forward on the path to a smoke-free UK.''

He pointed out that the vote coincides with No Smoking Day, a BHF campaign to encourage smokers to try to quit.

Kay Boycott, chief executive of Asthma UK, said: "Today's vote on standardised packaging for cigarettes is a landmark victory for people with asthma.

"The health impact of smoking on asthma is enormous: it both causes people to develop asthma and can trigger potentially life threatening asthma attacks. It also reduces lung function and can lessen the effectiveness of some asthma medicines.

"We are delighted that MPs have voted in favour of standardised packaging today and we urge the Lords to pass this law next week, so that the one in 11 people with asthma - and particularly more than one million children in the UK - are a step closer to benefiting from a smoke free future.''

Dr Peter Carter, chief executive & general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), said: "This is an extremely positive step forward which could lead to an important reduction in smoking in the UK.

"The independent review undertaken by Sir Cyril Chantler demonstrated how standardised packaging can not only reduce the prevalence of smoking but also the uptake, lessening the risk of children and young adults becoming addicted to cigarettes in future.

"Smoking results in unnecessary deaths every year in the UK, causing untold pain and suffering for patients and their families, whilst inflicting a significant financial burden on the NHS.

"The RCN urges peers to follow suit next week and play their part in reducing the impact cigarettes have on public health in the UK.''

David Cameron's official spokesman said: "The Prime Minister voted in favour of this change. He is pleased that it has gone through.''

Asked if the PM was disappointed at the number of Conservative MPs voting against plain tobacco packaging, the spokesman said: "The whole point of a free vote is that people can express their views freely.''

The regulations were approved by MPs by 367 to 113 meaning there was a majority of 254, in a landmark free vote.

Plain packaging has been bitterly opposed by some on the Tory benches and the number of No votes is higher than had been forecast.

James Barge, director of corporate affairs for Philip Morris Limited said the tobacco company would be seeking compensation for the "irrational and unnecessary attack on private property that vilifies products that well-informed adults choose to buy''.

"While we respect a government's authority to regulate in the public interest, we and the public expect them to do so based on evidence, taking account of fundamental values such as private property, equal treatment and consumer choice,'' he said.

"The UK Government is ignoring serious legal issues under UK, European, and international law.''

Ukip was also opposed to the move, which the party's deputy leader said "infringes the principle of personal choice''.

Paul Nuttall said: "It is wrong that it was just dealt with by a committee and not open to discussion by all MPs on the floor of the House. It is the nanny state at its worst and an affront to democracy to push ahead with legislation without a full reasoned debate.

"Worse still it fails even to deliver what its proponents argue. Plain packaging is bound to lead to an increase in counterfeiting and who knows what toxic substances could be in them, it sends shivers down my spine.''