UK Government To Publish Tobacco Control Paper Soon

LONDON (Dow Jones)–The U.K. government Monday said it is to publish “shortly” a paper on health policy, which could see lawmakers impose fresh rules and legislative direction on both the retail display and packaging of tobacco products.

The Department of Health confirmed the imminent publication of the paper after weekend reports said its Tobacco Control Plan would be published Wednesday to coincide with a national No Smoking Day. The Department declined to comment further on the timing or content of the paper.

At the end of November last year, the coalition government’s health department, headed by Health Secretary Andrew Lansley, issued a policy paper that claimed smoking causes 80,000 deaths each year in the U.K.

That document said the government is considering options for the display of tobacco in shops in order to “reduce tobacco consumption and to reduce burdens on businesses.” Separately, a ban on tobacco sales from vending machines is due to come into effect on Oct. 1.

The document also said the government would look at whether plain packaging of tobacco products, based on “good evidence” of its public health benefits, could be an effective way to reduce smoking. If the policies are implemented, the U.K. will become the first European Union country to introduce plain cigarette packs.

Tobacco companies, including U.K.-based British American Tobacco (BATS.LN ) and peer Imperial Tobacco (IMT.LN ), are pursuing an application for a judicial review of the existing display ban. A court hearing on the matter is expected in the Spring.

Both companies declined to comment on the issue Monday.

Last month, BAT said it expects the Australian government to rule next year on its proposals to introduce generic packaging, but warned the company is ready to challenge the decision.

The tobacco industry says there is no evidence to suggest that plain packaging would have any impact on smoking uptake by young people and is fighting against the proposals on the basis of intellectual property rights, international trade and European law. The industry is also concerned that generic packs–which would prevent manufacturers from using any logos or colors–will increase the illicit trade of counterfeit cigarettes.

At 1234 GMT, British American Tobacco shares were flat at 2483 pence, while Imperial Tobacco shares fell 1% to 1922 pence against a 0.54% rise in the FTSE-100.

source: online.wsj.com

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