Effective immediately, cigarettes must be sold in standardised green packaging as a deterrent to having the young take up the habit. Packages must include well specified written alarms as to the dangers of smoking. So that the packs are large enough for the warnings, namely 65% coverage on the back and front, each package must contain 20 cigarettes. The brand of the cigarettes must be on the pack in a consistent size with the colour and the front standardised.
This UK driven regulation became law at approximately this time in 2016. The manufacturers had 12 months to liquidate old stock through sales and put their changes through.
The European Union (EU) Tobacco Products Directive has permitted the UK to go beyond the rules to require the aforementioned tobacco packages to be this standard green with big images indicating the downside of smoking. The understated green packages also have to be utilized for loose tobacco and must contain at least 30g of the substance.
E-cigarettes are also covered here by the new law. Tank sizes can be no more than 2 ml and the nicotine strength of liquids no greater than 20 mg/ml. A warning on the front and back taking up 30% of the area must be there for reasons of health stating, “This product contains nicotine which is a highly addictive substance.”
There will also be a menthol cigarette ban beginning in 2020. Such writings as “this product is free of additives” or “is less harmful than other brands,” will then be outlawed in promotional materials.
The Tobacco Products Directive was taken to task by the tobacco industry via the European Court of Justice (ECJ) and went to the UK court system to fight the new rules for standardised packaging. In May 2016, the ECJ ruled that the directive was within the law with the UK courts ruled against the tobacco lobby in the matter of the package standardization. The UK Supreme Court then denied the industry an opportunity for appeal.
With cancer charities backing the regulations, it is hoped that the number of smokers across the EU can be reduced by as many as 2.4 million individuals. Smoking, it is estimated, is responsible for 700,000 deaths. The UK passed the law following Australia’s 2012 example, is the second country worldwide to pass standardized packaging regulations. Other countries that have followed suit include Hungary, Ireland, France, and Norway.
Deborah Arnott, the chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) said that “Getting rid of glitzy, heavily branded tobacco packs is the latest in a long line of achievements by the UK which is a global leader in tobacco control.
“We now have among the fastest declining smoking rates in the world thanks to decades of sound policy, but smoking rates among the poorest and most disadvantaged remain high. “If this is to change then a priority for the next Government must be to publish a new tobacco control plan with tough new targets, focused on tackling health inequalities,” Arnott added.
Positing that the new rules would not bring about a change in public health, Forest, a group in favor of smoking, said the action serves to “infantilise” consumers and would make no difference to public health.
Simon Clark, Forest director, said: “The new regulations treat adults like naughty children. They infantilise consumers by attacking freedom of choice and personal responsibility.
“The new regulations are a disgraceful attempt to denormalise both the product and legitimate consumers.
“There’s no evidence they will have the slightest impact on public health,” he concluded.