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Edwin Poots backs changes to cigarette packaging

By Anna Maguire

The Health Minister has said he supports plans which could force tobacco companies to strip branding from cigarette packs.

A UK-wide consultation, launched yesterday, will ask the public whether tobacco packaging should be changed or if a different option should be considered.

Smoking causes more than 2,000 deaths every year in Northern Ireland — where more than 300,000 adults smoke. The proposals are particularly aimed at young people. Department of Health statistics indicate 8% of children aged 11 to 16 in Northern Ireland are regular smokers.

A ban on vending machines selling cigarettes came into force here at the beginning of March — five years after smoking in workplaces and pubs was banned.

Australia is currently the only country which has agreed to plain packaging on cigarette packs.

But the UK proposals would not mean cigarette packs would be plain. They would still carry the brand name, alongside health information and warnings.

Health Minister Edwin Poots said the proposed move could prevent young people from taking up the habit, while supporting smokers trying to quit.

He said: “I hope everyone here will add their views to this issue. Reducing smoking prevalence is one of the biggest challenges we face in public health.”

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