Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Big tobacco 'will not stop new law'

A Cancer Research UK image of a plain cigarette pack - the Scottish Government says tobacco firms will not stop the legislation coming through

Tobacco firms will not deter the Scottish Government from bringing in plain packaging for cigarettes, the Public Health Minister has pledged.

Michael Matheson is "committed to bold action" to reduce smoking rates and said he wants Scotland to be at the forefront of international efforts.

The country was the first part of the UK to officially support standardised packaging, with ministers backing the move in March.

The Scottish Government has committed itself to bring in legislation on plain packaging in 2014-15, although some health campaigners are disappointed it is not happening sooner.

Such a measure was not mentioned by the UK Government when it outlined its legislative programme for the year in May.

Australia was the first country to require all tobacco products to be sold in plain packaging, and Mr Matheson said he is "very encouraged" by early findings on the impact of the policy.

"I am determined to see Scotland remain at the forefront of those countries committed to bold action to reduce the harm to our health caused by tobacco," Mr Matheson said as he addressed the Faculty of Public Health conference.

Plain packaging is necessary to prevent tobacco firms attracting a new generation of smokers, he said.

"To build a generation free from tobacco, it is necessary to restrict the imagery and design that tobacco companies use to pull in another generation to use these addictive and lethal products.

"I am very encouraged by the early findings coming out of Australia following implementation of plain packaging there. These add to and support the wealth of existing evidence which consistently shows that plain packaging would reduce the appeal of tobacco products to consumers."

Ministers will " continue to take account of any new evidence emerging from Australia as we move toward a consultation on the next steps in Scotland in the New Year".

He criticised the "delaying tactics" of tobacco companies to prevent restrictions on their products being introduced.

Imperial Tobacco challenged the Scottish Government's decision to ban the display of tobacco products but it was dismissed by the UK Supreme Court.

Mr Matheson said: "W e have seen all around the world that the tobacco industry does not like governments taking decisive action to protect people from the harms caused by the products they produce.

"We will not be deterred by the tobacco industry. They have failed before in challenging the Scottish Parliament's ability to legislate on public health, as we saw in the Supreme Court's decision to dismiss Imperial Tobacco's challenge on the tobacco display ban.

"We must also hold the tobacco industry to account. They have sheltered behind smokers and retailers for too long, while we know that every year children are taking up tobacco use and falling into addiction.

"The delaying tactics used by the tobacco industry are being increasingly exposed for the myths that they are."

Doctors' leaders welcomed the Scottish Government's commitment to plain tobacco packets.

Dr Charles Saunders, deputy chairman of the British Medical Association in Scotland, said: " We have repeatedly called for standardised packaging to be introduced, and we welcome the Scottish Government's strong support of this position.

"I would call on the tobacco industry to stop trying to undermine the Government's bid to improve public health.

"We know that children recognise brand images including packaging, and that the industry is using design and packaging to make their products attractive to new, young smokers.

"For that reason we maintain that all branding should be removed from tobacco packaging. Generic packaging would help make it more difficult for tobacco companies to recruit new young smokers to replace those who have died from smoking, and research suggests it would increase the impact of health warnings."

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