LONDON (Reuters) – The British government said on Wednesday it would try to pass a law to force tobacco firms to sell cigarettes in plain packets without branding in England before May, ending years of debate and lobbying over the issue.
The move, aimed at improving public health and cutting the number of child smokers, is likely to crimp tobacco firms’ profits and would see Britain follow in the footsteps of Australia, which two years ago enacted a groundbreaking law forcing cigarettes to be sold in plain olive green packaging with images showing the damaging effects of smoking.
Cigarette sales have dropped in Australia since plain packaging was introduced on December 1, 2012, prompting Britain to move ahead even as Australia continues to battle international legal challenges from other countries and manufacturers.
Jane Ellison, a junior minister in Britain’s health ministry, said introducing plain packaging was “a proportionate and justified response” because of the health risks associated with smoking.
“In doing so we would be bringing the prospect of our first smoke-free generation one step closer,” she said in a statement.