UNITED KINGDOM - Today the U.K. government in launching an examination into whether packs of cigarettes should be stripped of all branding, including trademarks, reports The Guardian.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley announced plans to begin the consultation, suggesting that plain packaging would reduce smoking. "Each year it (smoking) accounts for over 100,000 deaths in the U.K. and one in two long-term smokers will die prematurely from a smoking disease," he said.
The news source adds that plain-packaging legislation "would be the latest in a series of measures against smoking," including an advertising ban, increased taxes, public smoking bans, graphic health warnings on packs of cigarettes and display bans at retail locations, such as convenience stores.
In response to the Government€™s confirmation that it would be launching a consultation on the packaging of tobacco products, Imperial Tobacco issued the following statement:
"We oppose the plain packaging of tobacco products and will be setting out our detailed views in our response to the government€™s consultation€¦Our trademarks are protected by law and we have a fundamental right to differentiate our brands from those of our competitors€¦Tobacco packaging has never been identified as a reason why people start to smoke or continue to smoke...We are particularly concerned about the impact plain packaging will have on illicit trade€¦Logic dictates that making all tobacco products available in the same generic packaging will increase the already high level of counterfeit product available in the U.K., placing further pressures on retailers and government tax revenues."
Other groups say that the plain-packaging plan would increase the growing global problem of contraband tobacco:
Lansley's initiative has also been "fiercely criticized" from the Conservative Party, largely because plain packaging infringes on the rights of international business and sets "a dangerous" precedent.
"I suspect plain packaging will result in other sorts of negative impacts, including the increased health threat posed by counterfeit tobacco, the encouragement of smuggled products and damaging competition," wrote Mark Field, MP for the Cities of London and Westminster, on the Conservative Home website. "Indeed, the Treasury is already losing around £3bn a year from tobacco that has evaded U.K. duty; criminal gangs operating a contraband supply chain at the expense of legitimate businesses," he added.