Paul Burstow and Claire Tyler write … Standardised tobacco packaging

Do you know only one in ten smokers in the UK started after the age of 19, and two in five of smoking habits started before 16?

Every year, more than 100,000 people die from smoking related diseases across UK; at the same time, 200,000 children aged 11-15 are risking their health and spending hundreds if not thousands of pounds a year on this toxic habit.

When smokers take up in their early years, they face more serious health impacts and find it harder to quit, so reversing this alarming trend has to be one of our biggest priorities in public health. And that’s why the Lib Dems have fought hard over years to get us all ahead of the curve. Thanks to hard work from colleagues across Parliament, in the past ten years the UK has banned tobacco companies from using most forms of advertising – including sponsoring sport teams – and put the display of tobacco products in shops under control while Paul was Health Minister.

Then it was true that the health and economic benefits of stopping tobacco displays far outweigh the costs, and the same is true of standardising cigarette package designs now. The unconscious trigger of attractive packaging is an extremely successful marketing tool that encourages children and young people to glamourise and take up smoking. Bright colours, sleek designs and slim cigarettes, to name a few, all make people falsely believe that such cigarettes are less harmful. Attractive packaging is responsible for one in 20 people who take up the habit and a matter of 2,000 lives in the UK each year.

There is still hope, even as smoking casts an ever larger shadow over the health of the next generation. Paediatrician Sir Cyril Chantler’s review found that tobacco advertising makes teenager uptake more likely, and concluded that standardised packaging is an effective way to counter that. With uniform design on cigarette package, existing users can still choose their favourite brands, but teenagers walking by will be less likely to pick up their first packs.

Cyril is not alone in holding this view. Surveys earlier this year show that three in four people in the UK now support the introduction of standardised packaging. People with different political views and backgrounds clearly agree on the importance of the health of UK’s next generation.

When this measure was first adopted in Australia at the end of 2012, the World Health Organisation immediately said it a very important way to control the prevalence of smoking in Australia. The following year proved that the support was well earned: adult smoking prevalence in Australia declined from more than one in seven to one in eight, and the proportion of age 18-24 who never took up smoking rose from seven to nearly eight in ten. As Australian government confirmed, this decline resulted in neither a collapse in cigarette prices nor in boosting illicit tobacco products.

We could rest assured that the uniform design in the UK will not cause a boom in the black market either. HMRC confirms this already, while the Smokefree Action Coalition, an alliance of over 250 organisations, have highlighted that existing security systems on packs is an effective means to help customers see the difference between genuine and black market packs.

Contrary to what the tobacco lobby will have you believe, the evidence is already clear. We know what needs to be done, and how we can do it, and the Lib Dems have been clear in our commitment to it, from the Deputy Prime Minister to the backbenches in both Houses, we have campaigned long and hard to get this vitally important measure through in this Parliament. Just as we all did in banning smoking in cars with children present.

The fact that public support for introducing standardised packaging remains high gives enough political motivation to move forward. We have been lobbying for this measure for years. It is fantastic that together we are now all able to see our long held aspirations become a reality today.

 *Paul Burstow is Liberal Democrat MP for Sutton and Cheam.

* Claire Tyler, Baroness Tyler of Enfield, has been in the House of Lords since 2011, taking an active role in the areas of health and social care, welfare reform, social mobility, well-being, children and family policy, machinery of government and the voluntary sector. She is the Liberal Democrat member of the Lords Select Committee on Social Mobility, and co-chair of the APPG on Social Mobility

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84 Comments

  • Alisdair McGregor 9th Mar '15 - 5:43pm

    Sorry, but this is complete nonsense.

    All you achieve by enforcing generic packaging is to make counterfeiting easier.

    Pack designs are no longer visible in shops, which eliminates the supposed attractiveness of packaging in influencing people into taking up smoking.

    Plain packs is no more than something to be doing for the sake of doing something.

    As a LibDem PPC there’s no way I could back the proposals.

  • “All you achieve by enforcing generic packaging is to make counterfeiting easier.”

    Why? It would surely be as easy to create generic packaging materials that presented challenges to a would-be counterfeiter similar to those of a banknote, if not quite so elaborate.

  • Peter Hayes 9th Mar '15 - 7:40pm

    Why does it make counterfeiting easier. Anyone can produce the same colour scheme it is the hologram that makes it more difficult if the manufactures choose to use them.

  • This is the right thing to do based on the evidence available.

  • Stevan Rose 9th Mar '15 - 10:48pm

    Everything Alistair says. Waste of time.

  • There was a extensive discussion on this a couple of years back:
    https://www.libdemvoice.org/stephen-williams-writes-stand-up-to-big-tobacco-and-help-us-win-a-vote-in-parliament-36095.html

    As I said at the time:

    I remember the days when smoking was everywhere and as a non-smoker I felt the world had been balanced in the smokers favor to the detriment of the rest of us. But the gradual development of anti-smoking laws has pushed us past the point where I felt balance was being achieved. Why is the smoking ban a total ban when air standards in pubs etc could have been put in place that would have allowed technology to be developed to improve the pub environment so smokers and non-smokers could have enjoyed it without impacting on each other.
    Many of the new proposals seem not related to “denormalisaion” which is just another word for mild bullying. Smokers are still people, the anti- smoking industry who 15 years ago I would have sympathized with now strike me as a worrying group of authoritarians who rather than having an interest in minimizing harm to those who don’t smoke and children want to bully a minority of the population due to a lifestyle choice. I wouldn’t be accepting of that in other aspects why would I tolerate it ini realtion to smokers?

  • Anything that keeps fag smoke away from where people are trying to breathe must be welcomed.

  • If we try it and an independent assessment shows it isnt working will you agree to repeal this law ?

  • Article recently said the IRA could earn £20M from cigarette smuggling because it is easier to counterfeit new packs. In life we need to be aware of unintended consequences. There has been a steady decline in smoking. What would be a tragedy would be if organised crime increased resulting in the levels of murder and violence rising. What is often ignored is that often innocent people die in gang land fights; the unlucky bystanders .

  • Well done Claire Tyler and Paul Burstow and all those Liberal Democrats in parliament who have fought the good fight against Big Tobacco.

    This will help reduce death by cigarette. Let’s make smoking history!

  • Bright colours, sleek designs and slim cigarettes, to name a few, all make people falsely believe that such cigarettes are less harmful

    No they don’t.

    I knew people who smoked at school: every single one of them knew, and could tell you, exactly how harmful smoking was to their health. They just didn’t care, or at least not enough to take the simple step of not starting to smoke.

    You can’t save people from their own stupidity and you shouldn’t try. Let them kill themselves if they want to.

  • I find myself partially agreeing with Dav,,,, The idea that anyone is unaware of the dangers of smoking, or is attracted by “Bright colours, sleek designs and slim cigarettes” is risable ….As in my day, the young start smoking because their peers smoke…..

    I believe that every effort should be made to dissuade those who wish to start smoking and to help those who wish to stop to do so. However, I believe that those in favour of banning smoking have ceased to be sympathetic and are now starting to resort to bully boy tactics…

    a

  • I think those who are supporters of this haven’t been in to their local corner shop in many a year.

    Firstly, it is rare to actually see cigarette packets on display this is because they are kept behind doors in plain cabinets behind the counter – so the packets are only on display when the door is opened – because a customer has asked for a packet of xyz. Secondly right next to the till next to the packets of sweets and other last minute must have attention seekers are stands containing enticingly coloured displays of e-cigarettes.

    So as as someone who has never smoked, I’m with Alisdair, this is complete nonsense. As for the idea of creating “generic packaging materials that presented challenges to a would-be counterfeiter similar to those of a banknote”, well that in itself tells you that the idea is daft.

  • As packs are now not visible in adverts or shops, why is this measure necessary, other than to make gesture-politicians or witch-hunting bully-boys (and girls) feel warm about themselves, while much bigger issues are ‘too difficult’ to address??

  • jedibeeftrix 10th Mar '15 - 10:48am

    Daft measure.

    Cigs are hidden anyway, will just make it easier for counterfeiter s to hawk their goods.

    Think that’s a low tar CIG you’re smoking…

  • Roland
    Unless you live in Ireland it must be you who has not visited a corner shop recently.
    In the UK it has on been large supermarkets only that have been required to conceal displays of cigarettes.

    The displays in corner shops will come to an end very shortly — even though the Coalition delayed this for some years — I expect Lynton Crosby could explain to you why they did that.

    Those who say that the colourful advertising on cigarette packs makes no difference to children — If it makes no difference them why worry about it being removed?

    Those who say that no children see cigarette packs any more — have you ever walked along the average pavement and wondered to yourself what all those attractive, brightly coloured packs are within a couple of feet of the average toddlers eyes?

  • David
    Much bigger issues? How many people do you think die from cigarettes every year? What do you think is the cost to the NHS of cigarette smoking? What do you think is the biggest preventable cause of death in the UK? Bigger issues?

  • The argument that plain packaging increases counterfeit tobacco is a classic Big Tobacco gambit that is actually unsupported by any independent evidence. It’s a shame so many free thinkers and liberals take it at face value.

    It is, of course, beside the point. The intent of plain packaging is to discourage uptake of smoking amongst non-smokers. The argument that young people shouldn’t be further discouraged from smoking because Big Tobacco think it will increase counterfeiting is confused. It suggests that the health of young people is less of a priority than lost revenue from counterfeiting, and that law enforcement and customs shouldn’t change priorities or behaviour in line with changes in criminal activity.

    It’s really about distraction and obfuscation to protect an industry that kills millions globally each year.

  • How many of those deaths will this pathetic gesture prevent?

  • What do you think is the cost to the NHS of cigarette smoking?

    Actually, the cost to the NHS of cigarette smoking is net positive: smokers tend to die earlier, after short illnesses, and therefore don’t require the expensive, long-term end-of-life care that non-smokers often do.

    Every person who smokes, and therefore dies in their sixties instead of their eighties or nineties, probably saves to NHS a good few tens of thousands of quid.

  • Those who say that the colourful advertising on cigarette packs makes no difference to children — If it makes no difference them why worry about it being removed?

    Because the default position should be not to have a law about something, and if it makes no difference why have a law?

    To repeat: the people I knew at school who smoked were not misled into thinking smoking was less dangerous than it was; neither were the bedazzled by bright colours and shiny packets.

    They were just idiots.

    You can’t save idiots from themselves and you shouldn’t try.

  • Dav

    Actually, the cost to the NHS of cigarette smoking is net positive: smokers tend to die earlier, after short illnesses, and therefore don’t require the expensive, long-term end-of-life care that non-smokers often do.

    Every person who smokes, and therefore dies in their sixties instead of their eighties or nineties, probably saves to NHS a good few tens of thousands of quid.

    So, you think tobacco use shouldn’t be restricted because it saves the NHS money when they die early (debatable, cancer drugs are expensive, and the economy loses out because they are sick more often so work less)?

    Why not extend this argument slightly further and encourage increased drinking? The treasury would benefit enormously, and drinkers would die younger. Think of the savings to the NHS!

    Sure people die sooner, there’s the negative social consequences of that, but the bottom line looks good.

  • So, you think tobacco use shouldn’t be restricted because it saves the NHS money when they die early

    I didn’t say that. I was merely answering the question, ‘What do you think is the cost to the NHS of cigarette smoking? ‘

    But of course, the last thing you want when debating policy is actual facts, right?

    (debatable, cancer drugs are expensive, and the economy loses out because they are sick more often so work less)?

    It’s not debatable at all: cancer drugs are expensive, it is true, but nothing compared to years, perhaps decades, of geriatric care in a home or in and out of hospital, possibly with dementia. And anyway smokers tend to get aggressive cancers that kill them quickly so they don’t take them for very long.

    And they don’t miss that much work compared to non-smokers. They just cough more while they’re there.

    Sure people die sooner, there’s the negative social consequences of that, but the bottom line looks good.

    So it’s okay to make money-based arguments when you think they support your conclusion (‘we should stop people smoking because it costs the NHS money!’) but if the money-based argument supports the other side it becomes ‘you don’t care about social consequences, only the bottom line!’

    Hm, do you see why it might look like you have decided your conclusion and are looking for arguments to support it, rather than that you’re interested in looking at the arguments and then coming to a conclusion?

  • Alisdair McGregor 10th Mar '15 - 12:15pm

    Even if you discount the fact that smokers use less end of life care, Smokers still contribute more in tax & duty than they consume in Healthcare.

    Total UK expenditure on cigarettes is £15bn of which £12bn is tax & duty.

    Total government expenditure on smoking related healthcare is estimated at between £2.6bn & 5.4bn (and that’s including all forms of secondary healthcare that’s indirectly smoking related).

    Honestly, people are more than aware that cigarettes kill. Put your effort into providing accurate information on that and easy access to quitting aids. Don’t waste your effort on rubbish like plain packs.

  • David

    The maths is quite easy. One out of every two children who take up smoking die from smoking.
    At the moment 200,000 children in this country became addicted to cigarettes every year.

    If plain packaging reduces the number of children becoming addicted by just 10% it would save thousands of lives.
    The evidence seems to show that the success will be much greater than 10%.

    You describe this as a “pathetic gesture”. Do you have a problem with evidence based policies to save lives?

  • To smoke or not to smoke is not a simple consumer choice;

    Yes it is.

    it can quickly lead to an addiction which may be painful or even impossible to shake.

    Only if you choose to start smoking. Which, as mentioned, is a choice.

    A bad choice at sixteen could lead to a nasty prolonged death at sixty, with expensive surgery and medication thrown in.

    Good. Don’t make bad choices at sixteen, is the lesson there.

  • Dav, if you don’t think the cost to the NHS is relevant, why were you using it to argue against plain packaging? You also seem quite happy to let 16 year olds become addicts, despite there needing to be a criminal act to take place for a 16 year old to actually obtain tobacco, then abandon them to their fate. This seems morally questionable, to say the least.

  • This debate is another example of a dangerous trend with the LibDems. There is a tendency to choose someone who represents something you don’t like and try and take position s against them in an “ends justifies the means” approach. Big tobacco is nasty (look at the marketing techniques in the 3rd world) but this is then taken as an excuse to take any action against smokers.

    Some on here and the previous discussion seem to express a snobby dislike of smokers and don’t try very hard to hide behind the “anti-big tobacco” claim.

    The same was true of the support for Levenson where it was seen as an attempt to “stick it to Murdoch” when the proposal would have led to an ever expanding remit restricting free speech. Murdoch isn’t nice that doesn’t mean we should erode free speech further.

    Smokers are people, they can be annoying and inconsiderate but the constant unpleasant tone directed at them is not necessary.

    When people come out with comments like “Anything that keeps fag smoke away from where people are trying to breathe must be welcomed.” I would ask do you actually mean that? Anything? And what about this proposal achieves your objective of keeping smoke away from people? Or is it just another chance to lay in to a ever smaller group who’s choices you don’t like?

    Funny how little people understand a principal has to apply in circumstances where you don’t like the beneficiary, not just where you or those you “approve of” benefit.

  • Psi, how does plain packaging affect the rights of smokers?

  • g

    “Why not extend this argument slightly further and encourage increased drinking? The treasury would benefit enormously, and drinkers would die younger. Think of the savings to the NHS!”

    Perhaps you shouldn’t apply your prejudices to others, it may help you understand other people point of view. Though you have effectively highlighted how much those who now attack smokers rely on the “they cost us money” argument which as illustrated above is completely false. Perhaps those who continue to rely on this argument should ask them selves if they place so much weight in something that is factually wrong perhaps they should re-open their mind.

  • For people who wantto take the time to read some of the facts from an authoritative source —
    http://www.hscic.gov.uk/catalogue/PUB11454/smok-eng-2013-rep.pdf

    For people who like to simply repeat the lies from Big Tobacco, you might want to look away now.

  • Eddie Sammon 10th Mar '15 - 1:56pm

    Psi is spot on and I also found Sesenco’s comment distasteful. I’ll never forget my mum cry on her death bed because she couldn’t have a cigarette and I also remember the anxiety she felt about anti-smoking campaigns tackling smoking rights almost any way they could.

    Yes people will also have sob stories about passive smoking, but the rights of the individual need to be considered too and the idea that smoking is simply a choice made by selfish people is offensive.

    I’m not actually too fussed about plain packs. I have bigger concerns such as constantly increasing the price of cigarettes and punishing the smoking poor.

  • Simon McGrath 10th Mar '15 - 1:58pm

    @John – what lies are you suggesting are being repeated? The dangers of smoking are universally known.

  • Societal costs of smoking
    The burden of smoking-related diseases on society is enormous. It has been estimated that about 100 million people worldwide were killed by tobacco in the 20th century, and that the number will increase to 1 billion in the 21st century. 

    The economic costs of smoking extend beyond the direct costs of smoking-related illness and death and can be attributed to four elements:

    1…Healthcare expenditures attributable to the treatment of smoking-related diseases in active smokers and those affected by second-hand smoke.
    2.. Loss of earnings, employee absence and reduced workplace productivity.
    3..,The monetised value of premature mortality and disability as assessed by disability-adjusted life-years lost.
    4…Other indirect costs such as fire damage related to smoking and costs related to cleaning up after smoke. Smoking is the biggest cause of discarded litter in many cities. Tobacco growing results in widespread environmental harm from deforestation as well as pesticide and fertiliser contamination.

    http://www.erswhitebook.org/chapters/tobacco-smoking/societal-costs-of-smoking/

  • Stevan Rose 10th Mar '15 - 2:09pm

    Fights don’t break out in town centres because people have smoked too many fags. Women don’t get beaten up when the pubs chuck out because their partner has smoked 5 more than they should have. A & E isn’t packed on a Saturday night with poor unfortunates with a ciggy burn. Sclerosis of the liver and alcoholism isn’t caused by cigarettes. Alcohol causes far more harm than tobacco with considerably more impact on non users. So why the witch hunt against smokers. When are we going to hear talk about plain packaging for alcohol and keeping it all hidden from view? This is all hypocritical nonsense. Ex-smoker, wish I’d never started.

  • Dav, if you don’t think the cost to the NHS is relevant, why were you using it to argue against plain packaging?

    I wasn’t using the cost to the NHS to argue against plain packaging, I was pointing out to someone who was trying to use it as an argument for plain packaging that they had got the facts the wrong way around.

    Or do you think totally wrong facts should go unchallenged, as long as they are used by your side of the argument?

    You also seem quite happy to let 16 year olds become addicts, despite there needing to be a criminal act to take place for a 16 year old to actually obtain tobacco, then abandon them to their fate.

    Well, indeed. The 16-year-old is committing a criminal act. Could there be any clearer sign that they shouldn’t be doing it? And if they know they shouldn’t be doing it because it’s illegal, and they know the health effects of smoking (as all 16-year-olds do, these days) and they are stupid enough to choose to do it anyway, why should they not suffer the full consequences of their choice?

  • The monetised value of premature mortality and disability as assessed by disability-adjusted life-years lost.

    That’s not a cost to society of smoking, it’s a cost to the individual who was stupid enough to put a fag in their mouth in the first place.

    If someone starts smoking and loses twenty years of their life as a result of it, it’s no skin off my nose. Their choice, their fate.

    Whereas, if someone goes drink-driving, goes off the road, breaks their neck and ends up needing decades of round-the-clock care, I do pay for that through the NHS, so that is a cost to society, so society has an interest in stopping drink-driving. But smoking? The only people who suffer are the smokers themselves, and it’s their own stupid fault, so why should society care?

  • A support of the comments professes people aren’t ignorant of the dangers of smoking, but that they are driven to smoke to conform with their peers

    Nobody is ‘driven’ do to anything to conform with their peers. Peer pressure is not irresistible. Most people manage to resist it.

    (And besides, I think you’re out of date. These days, a teenager wishing to conform would not smoke, as most teenagers don’t. Smoking is the choice not of those who wish to conform, but of those who wish to rebel, and that definitely is a choice for which they can be held accountable.)

  • I find it laughable that people talk about the freedom to smoke – when it is an addiction that most smokers say thy wish to give up and wished thy had never started. When is being forced to do something you can’t control freedom ?

    Did someone hold them down and push that first cigarette between their lips, and hold it their until they were addicted?

    If that happened, then it’s something they were ‘forced to do’. If not, then there was no ‘forcing’ involved. It was their choice to start and they must bear the consequences.

    They may wish they had never started; tough. We must deal with the consequences of our choices. wish they hadn’t started, well, they know what they should have done: not started in the first place.

  • Whoops: read ‘hold it there until’.

  • “Why not extend this argument slightly further and encourage increased drinking? The treasury would benefit enormously, and drinkers would die younger. Think of the savings to the NHS!” (Psi 10th Mar ’15 – 1:31pm)

    I totally mis-interpreted this comment, but my mis-interpretation does raise a very good point: Why not extend the idea of plain packaging et al to alcohol? It is a totally logical extension to the argument being put forward by those who think plain packaging of cigarettes is a wonderful idea.

    Perhaps given how politic’s causes so much vexation, perhaps we should extend plain packaging to political parties…

  • Alisdair McGregor 10th Mar '15 - 2:46pm

    @John Tilley

    Your document proves my point regarding the costs of smoking.

  • Richard Easter 10th Mar '15 - 2:47pm

    Philip Morris is currently suing Uraguay and Australia in private ISDS tribunals after their attempts to restrict smoking.

    The Liberal Democrats support TTIP and ISDS. Do we really want to be paying billions of taxpayers money out to foreign multinationals for enacting policies like these. Until you address the elephant in the room of ISDS, there is no point in discussing this whatsoever.

  • Dav

    But smoking? The only people who suffer are the smokers themselves, and it’s their own stupid fault, so why should society care?

    Are you serious? Why are you even involved in politics if you think that society shouldn’t care about other people?

  • JohnTilley (10th Mar ’15 – 10:59am)

    >In the UK it has on been large supermarkets only that have been required to conceal displays of cigarettes.

    That may be so, but out here in the rural east midlands many corner shops have already adopted this practise – partially because it gives them more display space.

    >The displays in corner shops will come to an end very shortly — even though the Coalition delayed this for some years — I expect Lynton Crosby could explain to you why they did that.

    So soon we will have blanket coverage and hence we will be able to see really just how effective this measure is. Just because this has been delayed, it is no justification for sour grapes and rushing ahead with plain packaging.

    >Those who say that the colourful advertising on cigarette packs makes no difference to children — If it makes no difference them why worry about it being removed?

    In fact I explicitly noted that colourful advertising is being used on e-cigars and these are being deliberately displayed in places where children can see and reach… Given these are new products, we can only conclude a purpose of the style of packaging and promotion being used is to encourage uptake by children. So whilst the health effects of e-cigars are different to cigarettes, we need to ask whether these cigarette substitutes should be promoted to a level that cigarettes haven’t for many decades now.

    >Those who say that no children see cigarette packs any more — have you ever walked along the average pavement and wondered to yourself what all those attractive, brightly coloured packs are within a couple of feet of the average toddlers eyes?

    The joys of inner city living (yes I do know where Kingston on Thames is 🙂 )… Toddlers see lots of things, the issue is the connections they make. I suspect very few toddlers see anything other than a colourful object. It is only later that they will make the connection between the litter and that habit adults have of putting white sticks in their mouths.

    Finally, in all this outcry, I’ve yet to see any one produce any hard long-term data about smoking. From the way that some spin plain packaging, you would think smoking is an out-of-control epidemic, rather than something that is in decline…

  • Counterfeiting is a red herring, put forward to suck in the gullible. A counterfeiter need only copy one packet so if there are ten different packets rather than one, the task is the same.

    As for costs, there is, for sure, an illiberal argument in favour of pushing an addictive product and maximising the tax take on it, however, so far as I am aware there is not a Liberal argument and in any case the lethal effects of tobacco smoking make even this illiberal argument less efficient than would first appear.

  • The notion that limiting an addict’s access to an addictive poison is an “attack” on them would be merely curious if it did not involve the high risk of sickness and death, long-term health expenses, and pressure from a wealthy and powerful industry that has time and time again engaged in denial of the medical facts. So one wonders where the “daftness” really lies.

  • Dav: “Did someone hold them down and push that first cigarette between their lips, and hold it their until they were addicted? ”

    Yes, effectively. That is what branding and packaging tobacco products as something attractive to children does.

    You sound like a 19th-century mill owner, blaming his own workers for their poverty by accusing them of indolence.

  • Yes, effectively. That is what branding and packaging tobacco products as something attractive to children does

    Rubbish. Most children and teenagers manage not to fall what what you seem to think is the irresistible, mind-controlling effect of brightly-coloured packaging.

    If ‘branding and packaging’ were the same as holding people down and forcing them to smoke, then surely every child would smoke?

    They do not. So clearly it is possible to resist the magic power of bright colours. So clearly those who do not resist are either stupid, weak-willed, or making a deliberate choice, and in any of those cases deserves the consequences of their incontinence.

  • Dav

    If ‘branding and packaging’ were the same as holding people down and forcing them to smoke, then surely every child would smoke?

    If branding and packaging didn’t work then companies wouldn’t spend £bn’s annually on them…

  • Caracatus

    “There is a incredibly destructive stain of ersatz liberalism being expressed. Its not Liberal to ignore the principle of harm to one self […] that smoking causes.”

    Errr, I think you have misunderstood the harm principal.

  • g – (10th March ’15 1:29pm)

    “Psi, how does plain packaging affect the rights of smokers?”

    It is not plain packs specially that I am bothered by it is the debate in general. As others have pointed out cigarettes are (or shortly will be) hidden from display, we have raised the legal age of purchase to 18, we have kicked smokers out of everywhere. Plane packs will probably increase counterfeiting but not on the scale claimed, it will see a decent number of people switch from more expensive brands to cheaper ones.

    My starting concern is my belief that we should only impose restrictions in life if there is a harm (that would be to others) reason, there are a lot of fanciful claims but not a lot of real evidence.

    But the real issue is the nasty, illiberal, bullying attitude, it is part of an “anti-smoker” trend. Look at the number of people on here who claim that there are great social costs of smoking. That is claiming smokers are inflicting costs on non-smokers, when in fact they are making a net contribution.

  • Roland

    I think you may have directed a comment to me when the quote is g?

    Richard Easter

    “Philip Morris is currently suing Uraguay and Australia in private ISDS tribunals after their attempts to restrict smoking.”

    I would say that is a red herring, I don’t think the government would loose and if they did the cost is not what is wrong with the Governemtn/Parliament/NHS/Media’s behaviour relating to this.

  • Martin

    “As for costs, there is, for sure, an illiberal argument in favour of pushing an addictive product and maximising the tax take on it”

    I think you have misunderstood, no one is advocating promoting smoking. No one is advocating more smoking for the extra tax. As Dav explains above (including the original post) who are using a dishonest argument that there is a net social cost from smoking. There is not, there are high private costs (50% chance of nasty death) but a liberal position is to accept someone else’s freedom to harm themselves. We can offer help if they wish to change their mind and stop smoking (which we do); we can restrict their ability to enflict it on others (which we do); but we have to otherwise accept the decisions of adults if they wish to smoke.

  • If branding and packaging didn’t work then companies wouldn’t spend £bn’s annually on them

    Define ‘work’.

    Of course they make the packets more memorable, more attractive, more eye-catching.

    But — and here’s the crucial point — they don’t exert any kind of magic aura that forces people to take up smoking. Everyone is free to resist the allure of the brightly-coloured packaging and never light up that first cigarette.

    If someone starts smoking, the ‘branding and packaging’ did not force them to do it. They could have resisted the branding and packaging; they chose not to (or they were too stupid or weak-willed to, which amounts to the same thing).

  • Psi,

    I regard addiction as a form of slavery.

  • Alisdair McGregor 10th Mar ’15 – 2:46pm

    You may have commented having read one document but not the other. Did you see my comment? –
    JohnTilley 10th Mar ’15 – 1:59pm
    Societal costs of smoking
    The burden of smoking-related diseases on society is enormous. It has been estimated that about 100 million people worldwide were killed by tobacco in the 20th century, and that the number will increase to 1 billion in the 21st century. 

    The economic costs of smoking extend beyond the direct costs of smoking-related illness and death and can be attributed to four elements:

    1…Healthcare expenditures attributable to the treatment of smoking-related diseases in active smokers and those affected by second-hand smoke.
    2.. Loss of earnings, employee absence and reduced workplace productivity.
    3..,The monetised value of premature mortality and disability as assessed by disability-adjusted life-years lost.
    4…Other indirect costs such as fire damage related to smoking and costs related to cleaning up after smoke. Smoking is the biggest cause of discarded litter in many cities. Tobacco growing results in widespread environmental harm from deforestation as well as pesticide and fertiliser contamination.

    http://www.erswhitebook.org/chapters/tobacco-smoking/societal-costs-of-smoking/

  • g

    “You also seem quite happy to let 16 year olds become addicts, despite there needing to be a criminal act to take place for a 16 year old to actually obtain tobacco, then abandon them to their fate. This seems morally questionable, to say the least.”

    Ian Sanderson

    “A bad choice at sixteen could lead to a nasty prolonged death at sixty”

    Well indeed bad choices at any time in life can have lasting consequences, “bad choices” in your teenage years can result in people failing to getting insufficient qualifications and struggling more than is needed in life, “bad choices” can result in people getting STDs, “bad choices” can result in teenage pregnancies, “bad choices” can result in people doing all forms of physical harm to themselves in accidents.

    In these circumstances we seek to provide help. We try and help them make changes to their life chances, sometimes that is through changing their choices (like obtaining qualifications later, medical treatment) or to cope with changed circumstances (lone single parents or people disabled by injury).

    None of these “bad choices” receives quite the same free pass to attack the person who made the choice as smoking does to the paternalists who regularly attack smokers.

    And for the first smart arse who will say “the right/the government/the press attack and vilify teenage parents/the disabled” I would ask this if you believe these people are objectionable for their criticism of people suffering from a “bad choice” why are you so keen to emulate them? If you want to sit in a category with the Daily Mail, well that could also be considered by some of us a “bad choice.”

  • Martin

    “I regard addiction as a form of slavery”

    That’s not relevant to the point that was being made: that no one was advocating promoting smoking in order to maximise tax revenue.

  • Psi, you are right, I did incorrectly attribute the author of the quote as yourself. However, it was my reading of the quote in your comment that I misinterpreted. I contributed the thought arising to the discussion in general rather than specifically to yourself.

  • Psi:

    Opposition to enslavement and taking measures to prevent it, is, nonetheless, a Liberal issue.

  • “Those who say that the colourful advertising on cigarette packs makes no difference to children — If it makes no difference them why worry about it being removed?”

    I was dissatisfied with my initial response to this point, because the point was so clearly based on a flawed premise.

    There is no question about the ability of children to remember stuff – you only need to play board games such as “LOGO What Am I?” with group of 6~8 year olds to appreciate just how much advertising they’ve consumed; beyond the McDonalds yellow “M”… However, whilst they may know a particular brand, this doesn’t translate into wanting that brand – I’ve yet to have my children ask for Brut or Carlsberg for example. Which gets to the cruz of the issue: People took up smoking because it was SEEN as being desireable, not because of the fancy packaging.

    Having made the decision to smoke, the person is presented not with a simple choice but a whole range of brands. When cigarettes were advertised, the branding was much more obvious and overt – remember Marlborough Man? So the new user was guided into buying a brand based on image, whereas without the advertising the guidance is more to do with the social groups someone moves in. This is just as it is with any product: you target the early adopters and get them to ‘socialise’ your product to their circle of followers – these days via social media such as Facebook and Twitter (using exactly the same logic as the LibDems et al are using in their social media campaigns)…

    So the key step in breaking the addition cycle is to massively reduce the positive visibility of the product and to increase the negative visibility of the product. This is exactly what we’ve seen todate in the campaign against smoking. Hence why you don’t see advertisments nor (very often) smoking in films and stage plays, and why you do see advertisments for helping people to stop smoking etc. and to deter people from smoking (by making it seem gross).

    The next step which has been in progress for several years now, is the removal of the product from general show, this helping to reduce people’s awareness of the product – creating an impression of non-availability or scarcity. Interestingly, many smaller resellers were already removing cigarettes from display, because they are small expensive products, before the display legislation was introduced.

    Which brings us back to the packaging, which currently is part of a product’s branding and differentiator from the competition. Removing colour seems a good idea if you wish to destroy brand value, because the brands seemingly become less differentiated. However, having lived in the online world since the 1980’s, colour is unimportant! Yes, colour does mean that when I walk down the supermarket aisle I can (generally) select my preferred brand with just a quick glance. But when I have to ask for my product, colour is only helpful in fine tuning my selection!

    But going back to the online world, which has largely been two colour and text based: in recent years blakc and white, and in the early days: green and black or amber and black. We have brands – LDV itself is a good example of the power of standardised text brands!

    Yes, each commenter is creating their own brand, for the majority of commenter’s LDV provides a standard typeface, the only difference being the handle: “JohnTilley”, “Roland” etc. we use the same handle and over time we create a brand, so regular LDV readers see the handle and decide whether to bother reading the comment or ignore it. However, for many handles, you would only know about the handle and it’s reputation if you had discovered LDV and were a regular reader/addict.

    In conclusion the only purpose plain packaging will serve is to enable ‘generic’ brands to appear and seemingly compete with the established brands. However, cigarettes aren’t like pharmaecueticals and dispensed by a doctor who has a budget to manage, they are purchased directly by the user, the vast majority will ask for Zantac rather than Ranitidine…

    Also perhaps LDV could conduct an experiment with every comment being given the handle “Guest” or randomly being assigned to “Mary” or “John”…

  • Typo “addition cycle” instead of “addiction cycle” but given that the cycle being broken is the creation of new users, ie. adding to the user base, the use of addition doesn’t seem quite so wrong.

  • Philip Thomas 10th Mar '15 - 9:39pm

    @Roland- there is also the yellow highlight round the name (and party symbol) which identified known Liberal Democrat members. Whether that means their words are heeded any more than those whose party affiliation is unknown is doubtful.

  • Richard Easter 10th Mar '15 - 10:43pm

    Psi

    I don’t think it is a red herring at all. Regardless of whether you agree with giving people the liberty to smoke without restrictions, or use the hand of the state to encourage them to quit by making the product unattractive and further regulation (and arguably giving non smokers more liberty), foreign multinationals should not have any ability to hold governments to ransom. The debate must be about personal freedom on both sides, and given these unaccountable law suits, the debate is worthless if it costs too much to implement anything in case it affects the profits of foreigners.

  • You can’t smoke in public places and you have to be over 18 to buy cigarettes. Lots of people enjoy smoking, so what’s it got to do with Tyler and Burstow? It may knock a couple of years of somebodies life – big deal – that’s their choice.

  • I was in Poundworld at the weekend. They had a stand on the aisles selling colourful tins that you could transfer your cigs into and throw away the hideous packet. I see nothing anyone can do to stop the sale of gold, silver, purple, red or black tins that happen to be the same size as a superking. What are you going to do then? Ban non-standardised tins? What about old fashioned cigarette cases. Time for a revival. Perhaps you can sweep all the antique shops and fairs seizing surviving examples. Never underestimate the willingness of the public to stick two fingers up at nannying do gooder politicians.

  • @Phillip – I agree – I was trying to keep things simple. But thanks for the comment, it showed that at least one person read and understood part of my long comment 🙂

  • Chris Rennard 11th Mar '15 - 10:44am

    For anyone really interested in the debate, all the information to consider it properly is referred to in the letter that I have just received:

    11 March 2015

    As you are likely aware, the House of Commons votes on plain packaging today. In lieu of this, the Tobacco Control Research Group at the University of Bath’s Department for Health would like to invite you to review the results of our published and on-going research on the tobacco industry’s techniques and tactics to counter plain packaging legislation.

    Below we provide weblinks to pages on TobaccoTactics.org and links to our relevant peer-reviewed research that you may find helpful. To stay updated on our work, please follow us on @BathTR or facebook.com/TobaccoTactics. With queries, reply to [email protected] .

    Relevant TobaccoTactics.org pages:
    Information on how the tobacco industry and its associates have responded since the Government’s announcement in January
    Background information on plain packaging in the UK
    A list of all our pages on plain packaging
    The industry’s third parties and front groups
    Relevant information on plain packaging in Australia from the Cancer Council Australia’s Plain Facts website . There is information on the impact of the legislation on:
    Illicit trade
    Smoking behaviours
    Sales
    Retailers

    Relevant peer reviewed research by the Tobacco Control Research Group:
    ‘Representation and Misrepresentation of Scientific Evidence in Contemporary Tobacco Regulation: A Review of Tobacco Industry Submissions to the UK Government Consultation on Standardised Packaging’, PLOS Medicine
    ‘It will harm business and increase illicit trade’: an evaluation of the relevance, quality and transparency of evidence submitted by transnational tobacco companies to the UK consultation on standardised packaging 2012, Tobacco Control
    ‘How do corporations use evidence in public health policy making? The case of standardised tobacco packaging’, The Lancet
    ‘A critical evaluation of the volume, relevance and quality of evidence submitted by the tobacco industry to oppose standardised packaging of tobacco products’, BMJ Open
    ‘Tobacco industry manipulation of data on and press coverage of the illicit tobacco trade in the UK’, Tobacco Control

    We hope you find this information useful. If you wish to receive more of the evidence resulting from the Tobacco Control Research Group’s research or if you have any queries, please let us know.

    Best Wishes,

    The Tobacco Control Research Group
    Department for Health
    University of Bath

    http://www.TobaccoTactics.org
    [email protected]
    Follow us @BathTR
    like us on http://www.facebook.com/TobaccoTactics

    Evernote helps you remember everything and get organized effortlessly. Download Evernote.

  • @Chris – An interesting contribution.
    My initial impression from the letter you quote is concern or scepticism on the objectivity of the research being conducted by the University of Bath is that it seems to focus on what the tobacco industry is doing to counter “plain packaging” rather than remaining more objective.

    But in saying that there is a lot of information and data made accessible via the TobaccoTactics website, specifically fact sheet number 1 (see https://www.cancervic.org.au/plainfacts/browse.asp?ContainerID=factsheets1 ) prepared by the Cancer Council Victoria, Australia. This contains a very telling and relevant point, namely:

    “The introduction of plain packaging was informed by experimental research that consistently showed that, when compared with fully branded packs, plain packs elicited more negative perceptions about packs and smoking, and increased the efficacy of health warnings.”

    In the same fact sheet we also get more information on just what is meant by “plain packaging”, namely:

    ” Packs must be drab, dark brown in colour and devoid of all brand design, and in addition must carry large, graphic health warnings.”

    So not really plain at all!

    Reading further into this fact sheet, it is very clear the objective of “plain packaging” isn’t directly related to brand awareness and advertising in general, but a further step and refinement in the targeting of the negative advertising campaign that has been going on for years. The target is explicitly existing users! The “plain packaging” being deliberately chosen to enhance feelings of negativity to the product and to enhance the health warnings the packs already carry.

    So the real purpose is to target existing smokers and encourage them to give up and so further reduce the number of ‘adults’ who are SEEN to smoke and hence influence a new generation.

    Does this change what I’ve previously written here? no, because my previous posting was countering a misconception about “plain packaging”. However, what it does do is raise an interesting question about the abilities of our elected representatives. Whilst we (rightly) raise the profile of STEM backgrounds, perhaps we should also be raising the profile of those who have backgrounds in the psychology of consumer product marketing.

  • Excellent result in The Commons yesterday.

    Once again —
    Well done Claire Tyler and Paul Burstow and all those Liberal Democrats in parliament who have fought the good fight against Big Tobacco.

    This will help reduce death by cigarette. Let’s make smoking history!

  • MPs have voted in favour of introducing standardised packaging for cigarettes in the UK.

    Some 367 MPs voted in favour of standardised packaging with 113 against it in a free vote.

    It means from 2016 every packet will look the same except for the make and brand name, with graphic photos accompanying health warnings.

    The Irish Republic passed a similar law earlier this month and Australia has had plain packaging since 2012.

    The House of Lords is expected to approve this in a few days from now.

    Research has shown standardised packaging makes the packets less appealing and helps reinforce health messages.

    Darker colours – olive green is proposed – are favoured ahead of white, as they are perceived to signify more harm.

    A review was carried out by by paediatrician Sir Cyril Chantler he said the change would lead to a modest but important reduction in the uptake and prevalence of smoking.

    More than 600 children aged 11 to 15 start to smoke every day – more than 200,000 a year, if that number could be cut even by 2%, 4,000 fewer would take up the habit.

    British Lung Foundation chief executive Dr Penny Woods said she was “delighted” with the result.

    50 years of action by governments of all parties has reduced deaths from cigarette smoke–

    1965: Government bans cigarette advertising on television
    1971: Ministers announce health warnings to be carried on all cigarette packets
    1984: Smoking banned on London underground trains
    2002: Legislation passed banning tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship
    2005: Smoking banned on all trains
    2006: A ban on smoking in public places, including bars and restaurants, comes into effect in Scotland
    2007: England, Wales and Northern Ireland introduce their own bans on smoking in public places
    2008: Picture health warnings introduced on cigarette packets
    2012: Large shops are banned from displaying cigarettes. Smaller shops to follow suit in 2015
    2015: MPs vote in favour of banning smoking in cars where children are present

    Since 1965 smoking has come to be seen as the addiction of an ever smaller minority.

    In 1974 smoking was a habit for 51% of men and 41% of women.

    By 2013 smoking had gone down to 22% of men and 19% of women.

    The reduction in the number of deaths from lung cancer and other smoking related diseases during this time has been significant, improving the quality of life of millions and preventing unnecessary premature deaths.

    Most of the above comes from the BBC website.

  • Glenn Andrews 12th Mar '15 - 9:14am

    health warnings on plain packaging with high tax duties and strength levels clearly labelled…. if only we had the good sense to do the same with marijuana/cannabis products.

  • You have to be 18 to buy cigarettes and can’t smoke in enclosed public places – which I think most people agree with. However, all these non-smokers putting restrictions on people who like a smoke are just way over the top. I stopped smoking a long time ago, but what the hell has it got to do with me if my neighbour likes a smoke? As for packaging I have absolutely no doubt that colourful cigarette case’s with soon be back in fashion.

  • @John – thanks for reporting back both on the final vote but also the numbers. I had noticed how little media attention this commons debate received.

    Aside: Given the way vaping (smoking e-cigarettes) are currently being advertised, I expect to see a significant take up of these by the younger generation, just as in the past they took up alcopop’s…

  • Roland
    I fear you may be correct with your comparison with alcopops.

    Your earlier point about “…the psychology of consumer product marketing.” is also well made.

  • Simon McGrath 12th Mar '15 - 1:25pm

    Roland “Given the way vaping (smoking e-cigarettes) are currently being advertised, I expect to see a significant take up of these by the younger generation, just as in the past they took up alcopop’s…”

    Why would this be an issue ?

  • Simon McGrath

    Roland “Given the way vaping (smoking e-cigarettes) are currently being advertised, I expect to see a significant take up of these by the younger generation, just as in the past they took up alcopop’s…”

    Why would this be an issue ?

    Because addiction compromises freedom and can be very costly financially.

  • @Simon – Agree there may be no cause for concern, however, I’m wary of “wonder” solutions to problems which may take years to become visible. I think my and many other’s concern about e-cigarettes is due to their similarity to smoking – although in a recent radio advert I note one vendor had 40 nicotine free flavours available …

    Actually, in my point you were querying, I was thinking more along the line that it will be more profitable for the tobacco companies to funnel monies into marketing e-cigarettes to a new generation than to try and circumvent the hurdles in marketing traditional tobacco products to them.

  • Simon McGrath 12th Mar '15 - 2:04pm

    @roland – you may be right that tobacco firms funnel money into e cigarettes rather than try to get round hurdles- but why would that be a bad thing ?

  • @Simon – I didn’t think I was necessarily implying it was a wholly bad thing. I was thinking that the whole e-cigarette bandwagon as it gains momentum will have an effect on the take up of cigarettes regardless of whatever further restrictions are placed on cigarettes: would an adolescent be more likely to take up smoking – like their parents generation or vaping which will carry a much younger and positive image?

    Obviously, a big question mark over vaping, is whether it becomes a path to smoking “the real thing”. That is something only time will tell… My concern with vaping is the advertising is as psychologically advanced as the advertising was for cigarettes and alcopops, so rather than it being a product of personal choice it becomes seen as an essential accessory…

    The problem with tobacco firms investing in vaping, is probably in the same league as whether parties like the BNP can actually be free of their past.

    But as I said, we will only really know in the years to come how this actually plays out. About the only positive is that the government are going to have difficulty (on present evidence) justifying applying anything more than VAT to vaping…

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