RE-news

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said he wants to assess all the evidence properly before deciding whether to introduce a law for plain tobacco packaging.

Despite early predictions, plain packaging was not mentioned in the Queen’s Speech on May 8, although the Government is still due to give its formal response to its consultation on the proposals.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, Mr Hunt said: “On plain paper packaging, if we do it we will be the first country in Europe, the second country in the world – Australia only introduced it in January.

“So it is a much harder job to assess the evidence as to how effective it would be. I want to make sure we do the job properly so I’ve said I will take the time needed.”

NFRN national president Alan Smith said welcomed the Health Secretary’s comments and said plain packaging would be a gift to counterfeiters.

With the next general election due in 2015, the proposals are unlikely to arise again in Westminster before then. But there is a chance that plain packaging could still crop up in the EU’s Tobacco Products Directive, which is currently being considered in Brussels.

JTI’s head of communications Jeremy Blackburn warned retailers not to be complacent.

He said: “While we await the outcome from the UK Government on the consultation retailers should continue make their voices heard and engage with their local MPs.”