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« Match of the day | Main | Plain packaging: breaking news »

Forest: our response to new review on plain packaging

Another 3.00am alarm call. That's two days' running.

This morning, instead of driving to Manchester for BBC Breakfast, I had to drive to London - leaving early to avoid the traffic - for ITV's Daybreak.

They told me plain packaging was their lead story and so it was - at 6.10.

I was sharing the sofa with Luciana Berger, Labour's shadow minister for public health.

We've never met but she won me over in seconds by shaking my hand, calling me by my name, and dazzling me with her smile. (I never got this treatment from Diane Abbott.)

Anyway, the papers are reporting that the Government has done a U-turn and will introduce plain packaging before the next election. Some are describing it as a double U-turn.

Let's get this straight. There has never been a U-turn. The Government never promised to introduced plain packaging. It promised a public consultation and it delivered.

Then, when the Government decided in May not to proceed with the policy, they made it clear they would continue to monitor the situation.

The new review announced this morning in a written statement by public health minister Jane Ellison is part of that process.

I won't deny we are disappointed at the timing of the review but to suggest that plain packaging is a done deal and will be introduced before the 2015 election is conjecture not fact.

What is clear is that this is no longer about health. (It never has been, of course.) The reason the Government has acted as it has is politics.

First, the Coalition was in danger of losing control of the Children and Families Bill because opponents wanted to include an amendment to introduce plain packs.

By adding its own amendment, that can be triggered at any time but can also lie dormant, the Government is trying to reclaim the initiative and keep the power to introduce plain packs in its own hands.

Second, the Scottish Government wants to introduce plain packaging in Scotland even though it probably doesn't have the legal power to do so on its own.

The UK Government can't contest this (not before the referendum anyway) because it will be accused of interfering in Scottish politics.

The review is Cameron's way of reminding Alex Salmon who's in charge on plain packaging.

None of this is good news for opponents of plain packaging but this is far from over.

Here's a slightly edited version of Forest's official response, released this morning:

Forest: plain pack review "premature"

Campaigners opposed to plain packaging of tobacco have accused the government of ignoring the views of hundreds of thousands of people who opposed the policy in a public consultation.

They also describe as "premature" the government's decision to commission a further review of the evidence.

Angela Harbutt, campaigns manager at the smokers' group Forest which runs the Hands Off Our Packs campaign, said:

"Over 700,000 people took part in the public consultation and a huge majority opposed plain packaging.

"Fifteen months later the government seems to be ignoring the outcome of that consultation despite the fact that very little has changed in the intervening period.

"Although Australia introduced plain packaging twelve months ago it's far too early to say what the long-term impact will be."

She added:

"Although we think it's premature, we welcome a further review as long as it considers all the available evidence and is genuinely independent and impartial."

Full press release: Forest - plain pack review "premature"

PS. As I write Forest's campaigns manager Angela Harbutt is on World At One (BBC Radio 4). I'll try and add a link later.

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Reader Comments (19)

"The review is Cameron's way of reminding Alex Salmon who's in charge on plain packaging."

Interesting slant that and one I hadn't thought of, thanks. That would indeed make sense...if anything from that green padded cell does make sense.

Thursday, November 28, 2013 at 14:11 | Unregistered CommenterThe Blocked Dwarf

Wow - a pretty smile and you're anybody's??? I never would have pegged you as one so shallow so I assume you are just being your usual polite self to an opponent

Thursday, November 28, 2013 at 14:43 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

Well, late response, and rather flabby at that.

If plain packaging regulations are not introduced before the next General Election, I will come to Smoky Towers and eat your very ugly hat.

Thursday, November 28, 2013 at 14:56 | Unregistered CommenterYOMartov

It isn't for politicians to say what is normal or not normal as both are funded by taxation.

Thursday, November 28, 2013 at 16:12 | Unregistered Commentercharles 11

Check out this HYS post from a user with an apt name of Idiotbox.

Still don't like the use of the 'N' word Simon?

Thursday, November 28, 2013 at 16:57 | Unregistered CommenterAdam

The crazy thing is that almost all people do not start smoking because of the packet, surely to Christ someone somewhere involved in pushing these plain packs forward knows this????

Thursday, November 28, 2013 at 17:00 | Unregistered CommenterTony

Cancer Research have an article up on its website and comments are invited. Here is mine:

"Nearly 12 months into the Australian plain packs, guess what? No decrease in smoking and smuggling is up.

It really is a lazy argument “its for the children,” it’s cheap moral blackmail which will not protect them whatsoever, especially as smugglers do not ask for people’s ID before selling.

The smoking rate since the smoking ban, if you include vapers is identical, despite the £300 million a year of MY money being wasted on fake charities and “eye catching” initiatives.

Cigarette packets are for those who have decided to buy a pack and persuade what brand you buy.

I feel Cancer Research is damaging its reputation by being involved in politics and quite frankly junk science."

Thursday, November 28, 2013 at 17:56 | Unregistered CommenterDave Atherton

If anyone wants to comment here on Conservativehome,

Christopher Snowdon. Plain packaging for cigarettes is all about politics, not good policy.

Thursday, November 28, 2013 at 18:52 | Unregistered CommenterSheila

@Adam - there's quite a few of them on that thread, aren't there?

Great isn't it - everyone's protected from hatred except smokers who are the UK's 21 century whipping-boy.

Thursday, November 28, 2013 at 19:06 | Unregistered CommenterJoyce

You don't go into a genuine open discussion with a law all set up and ready to roll. The decision has been made.
You are wasting your time being nice and polite to these people.

Thursday, November 28, 2013 at 20:06 | Unregistered CommenterWoodsy42

So this independent review is to be chaired by Paediatrician, Sir Cyril Chantler?


Thursday, November 28, 2013 at 21:29 | Unregistered CommenterJunican

If UK signed WHO's FCTC, they must implement whatever is in it.

Thursday, November 28, 2013 at 23:21 | Unregistered CommenterGC

@Joyce. On the plus side however the higher rated comments on the subject are supportive of smokers.

Friday, November 29, 2013 at 10:42 | Unregistered CommenterAdam

All this to save children being tempted by pretty packaging!
I don't know of any children wealthy enough or stupid enough to hand over £8 for a pretty cig packet complete with horrific images when for that price they can buy 20 packets of sweets
without even a picture of rotting teeth on them.

Friday, November 29, 2013 at 13:37 | Unregistered CommenterBarnie

Maybe so Barnie, but they will hand over £5 or £10 to some bloke on the street corner who will sell them 200 for that money - counterfeit, of course, but the kids neither know that nor care.

Cigarette pushers are the new illegal drug pushers, don't you know. Get them hooked and then hike up the price.

Saturday, November 30, 2013 at 18:11 | Unregistered CommenterLyn Ladds

@ Tony

The crazy thing is that almost all people do not start smoking because of the packet, surely to Christ someone somewhere involved in pushing these plain packs forward knows this????

You miss the point, Tony. Of course they know that kids don't take up smoking because of 'glitzy packets'. Just as they know that plain packs and medico-porn will have an insignificant impact on smoking rates. This is just another salami slice in the greater plan of 'denormalisation'. They hate smokers with a passion, and any proposal that will further discomfit them is greeted with excited howls of enthusiasm. It also has the added bonus of notching up another victory in their war on the tobacco companies. If they can rob an industry of its trademarks and branding, then that opens the door for yet more incursions into the rights of businesses to operate freely. Once they succeed in setting this precedent, all the other prohibitionists are going to jump on the bandwagon. No manufacturer will be safe from their predations.

Prohibitionists have no imagination. They are incapable of seeing the bigger picture. Their tunnel vision can only focus on their single-issue goal, and they are totally oblivious to the fact that in their efforts to achieve that goal, they are wreaking untold damage on society as a whole. They are dangerous people who should never have been allowed even a sniff of power. Any sensible government would see them de-funded and marginalised immediately.

Sunday, December 1, 2013 at 9:51 | Unregistered Commenternisakiman

This is just another salami slice in the greater plan of 'denormalisation'.

I think you mean a salami slice towards ultimate criminalisation of the consumer who will then contribute higher levels of "tax" in financial penalties, plus having personal assets like homes and cars, stolen by the state as those involved in drugs do now.

The antis want us to be treated as and seen as "illegitimate deviants" like drug users and they expect us to be criminalised for it. That is their ultimate aim and not for any other reason than they despise smokers because smokers are propping up the tobacco industry which the antis despise even more.

This can only be done slice by slice and through fear mongering so that the general public jumps aboard the bandwagon that pushes smokers into criminality such as buying from the black market.

All together now ; "It's Not About Health".

Sunday, December 1, 2013 at 12:52 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

No wonder that would contradict existing legislation concerning the right to free marketing. What business has the state with what commerce does and how it works? What more with consumers and their choice? I think it makes no sense at all to have fascism in politics in a so called free and democratic country. How can they expect to expect something else to be performed every time I buy my cigarettes?

Saturday, December 7, 2013 at 18:33 | Unregistered CommenterCostas Kitis

This government must be getting dizzy with all the U Turns they are doing! Most of which are related to their Manifesto! Not much new there though.

Saturday, December 7, 2013 at 20:56 | Unregistered CommenterLyn Ladds

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