Remember when cigarette companies were told they had to start making their packets the world's ugliest colour? Imagine pond sludge, duck shit and toe jam combined into a shade and you're pretty close to "Pantone 448 C opaque couché". Combine that with huge pictures of mouth cancer (health warnings have to cover 60 percent of the box) and it's fair to say fag packets aren't too appealing any more.
Understandably, the tobacco industry isn't best pleased. The legislation was brought into effect in May of 2016 and has been very slowly been phased in, and yesterday the Supreme Court refused permission to appeal the Standardised Packaging legislation. This is the final discussion, meaning from the 20th of May this year it will be illegal to sell branded cigarettes.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: "Standardised packaging will cut smoking rates and reduce suffering, disease and avoidable deaths. I am delighted with this decision." Smoking is currently the biggest cause of premature mortality and kills over 100,000 people every year in the UK.
Similarly, Deborah Arnott, chief executive of health charity ASH, said, "The ruling by the Supreme Court finally puts paid to Big Tobacco's attempts to overturn the UK legislation on standardised packaging. This is the latest in a long line of crushing legal defeats for the tobacco industry. Over the years the industry has squandered many millions of pounds of its own money in futile legal challenges, but worse still it has wasted public time and money, which could have been much better spent improving public health."
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All good stuff, but will these packets actually put people off buying cigarettes and change behaviour? As of yet, there's little research to fully confirm it. Australia was the first and, until now, only country in the world to introduce standardised packaging, in December of 2012. In 2015, 14 Open Access studies were published reporting the effects of standardised packaging there, finding that it reduced the appeal of smoking and of cigarettes themselves, encouraged smoking cessation and made the health warnings more prominent (no shit).
Olivia Maynard, Senior Research Associate at the University of Bristol, said of these results, "It is estimated that standardised packaging is directly responsible (after taking into account other factors, such as tax increases) for 25 percent of the 2.2 percent drop in smoking prevalence observed in the 36 months after the introduction of standardised packaging as compared with the 36 months before. This may not sound like a lot, but this is equivalent to 118,000 fewer Australians smoking as a direct result of standardised packaging."
In the UK, the Office for National Statistics reports annual smoking rates, so like Australia we'll be able to see whether or not there is a decline in the next few years as a result of the new gross packaging.
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