13 Aug 2012
IPH welcomed the opportunity to submit our views on the introduction of standardised packaging of tobacco products in the United Kingdom.
Enhanced tobacco control policies and programmes are an important component of any strategic approach to improving population health and tackling health inequalities. The consultation on standardised packaging of tobacco products in the UK is particularly timely in view of the recent publication of the Ten Year Tobacco Strategy for Northern Ireland (DHSSPS, 2012). In this strategy the Department expressed its support for the introduction of further measures to reduce the influence of tobacco advertising and promotion upon children e.g. the introduction of plain packaging for cigarettes and hand rolling tobacco.
IPH key points
- The extent of tobacco-related harm across the island of Ireland and across the UK is unacceptable. Increasingly comprehensive and effective tobacco-control interventions are required.
- IPH recommends the adoption of option 2: require standardised packaging of tobacco products.
- IPH acknowledges that as plain packaging has not yet been introduced in any country, it is not possible at this time to accurately forecast the extent and nature of this intervention on population level health outcomes in the UK context. However, IPH considers that there is sufficient evidence to demonstrate the potential for standardised packaging of tobacco to
- reduce the appeal of tobacco products particularly among non-smokers, young people and women
- increase the impact of health warnings on packaging of tobacco products as demonstrated by increased recall
- increase the impact of health warnings on packaging of tobacco products when those health warnings are suitably prominent in terms of size, type and position
- reduce the ability of tobacco packaging to mislead consumers on the health risks associated with smoking in general
- reduce the ability of tobacco packaging to mislead consumers in terms of differing perceptions of risk associated with smoking particular brands with particular emphasis on the importance of removing colour coding/messaging and product descriptors
- affect the tobacco-related attitudes, beliefs, intentions and behaviours of children and young people.
- The proposed approach appears comprehensive in addressing the direct and indirect ways in which elements of tobacco packaging can promote brand appeal and can portray impressions in respect of tobacco-related harm. Consideration should be given to include specific provisions relating to roll-your-own (RYO) tobacco packaging. Any approach needs to be regularly reviewed to take into account attempts to bypass restrictions and evaluate responses in respect of consumer choices.
- IPH considers that the introduction of plain packaging has the potential to support the achievement of the goals set out in the Ten Year Tobacco Control Strategy for Northern Ireland ( DHSSPS, 2012).
- Among children in Northern Ireland who reported trying their first cigarette, around one quarter were aged 11 or under and three quarters were 14 or under when they did so (DHSSPS, 2012). The very young age of these children is concerning on many levels including their susceptibility to sophisticated branding and marketing techniques linked to tobacco packaging.