Standardised tobacco packaging can save lives and boost local economies

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Health improvements and savings worth £2.3 million could be made in Calderdale if proposed changes to tobacco packaging are introduced, Public Health England (PHE) research has revealed.


 In June 2014, the Department of Health published draft changes to the regulations on tobacco packaging, including cigarettes and hand-rolling tobacco, for consultation. These include new policies on the packet colour, the text and typeface, and the appearance of individual cigarettes. 


Calderdale Council’s Cabinet Member for Adults, Health and Social Care, Cllr Ann McAllister, said: 


“As the first local authority in West Yorkshire to sign up to the Local Authority Declaration on Tobacco Control, Calderdale Council is firmly committed to helping people break the habit and to discouraging people from taking up smoking in the first place.


 “Research into the effect of standardised tobacco packaging has shown that this can make a difference.  It reduces the appeal of cigarettes, particularly to young people and increases the effectiveness of health warnings, which means smokers tend to smoke fewer cigarettes. 


“By standardising the packaging we will also reduce the powerful appeal of branding, since tobacco products will all look very similar, and it will help us to tackle the myth that some brands are less harmful than others.”


 Standardised tobacco packaging was introduced in Australia in December 2012. Data from the Australian Treasury1 shows a 3.4% fall in tobacco sales by volume in the first year following the introduction of standardised packs. If this was mirrored across England, PHE predicts that total savings would be up to £500 million. 


Dr Cathy Read, from PHE in Yorkshire and Humber, said: 


“Some 700 children start smoking each year in Calderdale and we estimate that there are some 38,000 smokers in the area.  We estimate that one in two will die prematurely as a result. Standardised packaging is a powerful measure that would help to save lives.  


“The introduction of standardised packaging will be a major boost to our tobacco control efforts – helping move us closer towards achieving a tobacco free generation.” 


Tobacco is a major cause of health inequalities, the greatest harm being suffered by the most disadvantaged, so the greatest benefits would be felt in areas of greater social deprivation.  Standardised packaging could not only reduce the damage caused by smoking and improve health; it could also boost the disposable income of families. Money saved by customers from reduced spending on tobacco is likely to be spent with local businesses. 


Retailers earn relatively little profit from tobacco sales. On average, only 7 – 9% of the cost of tobacco is retained by the retailer, compared to 20 – 30% for food and drink products.  


The Department of Health consultation closes on 7 August 2014. Powers to introduce standardised packaging of tobacco products already exist in legislation.


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