CIGARETTES and other tobacco products must be sold in plain packaging from today in a move hailed by campaigners as a “momentous milestone” in the aim of drastically cutting smoking rates in Scotland.
The regulations, which will apply across the UK, require all cigarette brands to be sold in “drab and unappealing” standardised packs which must be coloured muddy green and carry larger health warnings and graphic images of tobacco-related disease such as cancer-ravaged lungs and limbs destroyed by gangrene.
Manufacturers will be barred from making “misleading” claims such as “organic” or “low-tar”, and flavoured cigarettes and flavoured rolling tobacco will also be banned. Packets of 10 will be outlawed too.
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Sheila Duffy, chief executive of ASH Scotland, said: “For too long tobacco companies hid their products behind enticing imagery and pushy brands, concealing the damaging reality of the cigarettes inside.
“Plain packs are already being seen around the country and from today every pack will be drab and unappealing.
“For the next generation growing up in Scotland, putting the branding out of sight and out of mind should help put smoking out of fashion.”
At present, 19 per cent of adults in Scotland smoke but Cancer Research UK wants this reduced to less than five per cent by 2035.
Linda Bauld, Cancer Research UK’s cancer prevention expert, based at Stirling University, said: “Smoking is a lethal addiction. It causes at least 14 types of cancer and so this measure, to remove the branding, colours and misleading descriptions from tobacco packs, is a momentous milestone in the battle for a tobacco-free future.”
The UK is the first nation in Europe to implement plain packaging, with France and Hungary set to follow suit. Ireland, Canada and South Africa are also considering it.
Australia, the first country to introduce the measure in 2012, reported a 13 per cent drop in tobacco consumption in the first two years of the policy.
However, Simon Clark, director of Forest, which campaigns for smokers’ rights, said the marketing rules treated smokers “like naughty children” and warned that they could backfire.
Clark said: “They infantilise consumers by attacking freedom of choice and personal responsibility.
“Adults and even teenagers are under no illusions about the health risks of smoking. Consumers don’t need larger health warnings to tell them what they already know.
“Banning smaller packs is a pathetic attempt to target the less well-off in the hope they will be forced to quit, but smokers will soon adapt and buy the larger packs instead.
“If you’re trying to cut down it will be harder now because the option of buying a smaller number of cigarettes has been taken away.”
Clark said the new government should review the measures as soon as the UK leaves the European Union.