Public Health Minister Jane Ellison MP last night told the House of Commons that plans to introduce standardised tobacco packaging would be brought forward.

Although discussions about tobacco packaging have been held over the course of the past few years, eighteen months ago the decision was made to hold discussion on standardised packaging until results from an Australian study had confirmed the effectiveness of such a campaign.

Standardised tobacco packaging in Australia

Australia was the first country to introduce the new rules and from 1 September 2012, all tobacco manufactured for sale in Australia was required to be contained in plain dark brown packs, with 75% front-of-pack graphic health warnings.

Results after a year were extremely positive,  showing smokers smoking from a plain pack thought more frequently about quitting, and increases in calls to Quitlines.

Announcing the decision, the Health Minister said: “Smoking remains one of our most significant public health challenges. It is a major cause of cancer, heart and respiratory disease and almost 80,000 people in England alone die every year from ill health caused by smoking.

“I now propose that we lay regulations for standardised packaging in this parliament to allow for them to come into force at the same time as the European Tobacco Products Directive in May 2016. In doing so we would be bringing the prospect of our first smoke-free generation one step closer.”

Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, a charity which promotes oral health and cancer awareness through campaigns such as Mouth Cancer Action Month, is delighted the vote has been brought forward.

He said: “Smoking can cause a variety of oral health problems. Of more concern is the significant risk of developing life-threatening diseases such as lung disease and mouth cancer.

“Tobacco remains the largest risk factor for mouth cancer, a disease that has increased dramatically in the last decade. Numbers show there are more than 6,500 cases and 2,000 deaths each year from the disease.

“This announcement is a significant and large step in the right direction to start reducing those figures.”

Dr Carter added: “I hope all MPs across the UK back the measure when it comes to vote so we can see levels of health improvement seen in Australia.”