The UK’s upper chamber of Parliament has voted to force Imperial Tobacco Group, British American Tobacco and other cigarette manufacturers to use plain packaging; the last step before the measures become law.
The House of Lords voted on Monday to introduce the rules, after the lower chamber, the House of Commons, did likewise last week. The government plans for the law to become effective in May 2016.
The vote will bring the UK into line with Ireland, which approved similar rules earlier this month, and Australia as the only countries to introduce standardized packs for cigarettes in an effort to curb the appeal of smoking. It’s a blow to the $780 billion tobacco industry, which says it harms their brands. BAT has indicated it will take legal action to defend its intellectual property if the rules are introduced.
“Introducing standardized packaging is highly likely to bring important public-health benefits,” Health Minister Frederick Curzon, a Conservative, told the upper house. “We cannot let the vested interests of the tobacco industry control the public-health agenda.”
The new rules will require cigarettes and tobacco to be sold in dull brown packets with white interiors, with specified text only, such as the brand. The packs will continue to carry health warnings.
Upper-house lawmaker Michael Morris earlier withdrew an amendment to block the proposal, saying he thought he only had about 25 per cent support.
Morris had said such rules hadn’t worked in Australia, the only country to have put them in place so far, with consumption of illegal tobacco and new smokers both at a seven-year high. He said plain packaging would also increase crime and hurt tobacco companies.
“Plain packs are little more than a smuggler’s charter,” Morris said. “This will adversely affect trademarks and intellectual property rights.”
Bloomberg News, edited by ESM