News & Comment

Health Secretary has "open" mind about plain packaging but doesn't see smoking as "part of life"

Mon 16th April, 2012

Launching the UK government's public consultation on plain packaging, health secretary Andrew Lansley said he had an "open" mind about the measure.

"We are going to consult on whether we think it will work," he told ITV's Daybreak.

A few days earlier Lansley told the Times that the government did not work with tobacco companies as it wanted them to have "no business" in the UK. The previous week he said, in interviews: "We no longer see smoking as a part of life".

In a statement, Lansley said: "Smoking remains one of the most significant challenges to public health.

"Each year it accounts for over 100,000 deaths in the UK and one in two long-term smokers will die prematurely from a smoking disease.

"That is why the health ministers across the UK have a responsibility to look closely at initiatives that might encourage smokers to quit and stop young people taking up smoking in the first place.

"Through the forthcoming consultation we want to hear as many views as possible about whether tobacco packing should remain unchanged, plain packaging should be adopted or a different option should be considered."

Simon Clark, director of Forest which runs the Hands Off Our Packs campaign, said:

"The consultation on plain packaging threatens to be a farce. Andrew Lansley says he is "open minded" yet he clearly supports plain packagingeven before the consultation has begun.

"Hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money has been spent in one region alone trying to persuade people to support plain packaging.Government is effectively using taxpayers' money to lobby itself. This scandalous abuse of public money must stop now.

"The consultation on plain packaging has nothing to do with health. It's all about Andrew Lansley. The health secretary is using the consultation to curry favour with health professionals, many of whom are less than impressed with the changes he is making to the NHS.

"He possibly believes that by extending the war on tobacco he will buy himself some time to win their support.

"Plain packaging is another step towards the denormalisation of a legal product. It is yet another attack on ten million consumers.

"Despite our cynicism about the consultation we urge consumers and retailers to make their voices heard and help defend Britain from excessive regulation."

Sources: Daily Mail (16 April 2012), BBC News (13 April 2012)


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