Nick Smith MP

Working for you in Blaenau Gwent

MP slams the government’s craven climb down on the plain packaging of tobacco products

Speaking in a packed debate on the plain packaging of tobacco products in Parliament, Nick Smith, MP for Blaenau Gwent, slammed the government for its craven climbdown on plans to introduce plain packaging of cigarettes, despite public support and that of health professionals and voluntary organisations.

He outlined how the tobacco industry woos young people and insisted we must show how plain packaging will save lives and money, and is clearly the right thing to do.

Nick Smith MP has made the case below for plain packaging:

“The cost of treating smoking related illness is estimated at around £400m in Wales alone.

The Welsh Health Survey in 2012 showed that 23% of the population smoke. Sadly that is 28% in my own Blaenau Gwent constituency.

Yet in July we witnessed the government’s craven climb down on plain packaging, which has the support of 190 distinguished medical bodies and voluntary organisations.

We know the smoking ban has our pubs and cafes healthier and more pleasant places to relax.  But young people are still being recruited to the habit. 

Ash Wales reports that every day in Wales an estimated 40 teenagers try smoking cigarettes - introducing them to a truly deadly product.

Cigarette packs now come in a wide range of shapes, sizes and designs – they are fashionable, colourful and attractive to young smokers – with I’m told, slim line feminine packets perfect for the small handbag. The industry knows the power of advertising – that’s why it opposes restrictions.

In the summer of 2012, Ash Wales did a campaign road show around Wales to talk to school children about the impact of tobacco marketing on them. When showed the marketing currently on the shelves they described cigarettes as looking like perfume boxes, posh tissues and even lego.

A child commented when shown the Australian plain packs that

“The warning is only on the back of the coloured ones and you don’t have to read it.” Kirstie, aged 11, Pontllanfraith Comprehensive School, Blackwood

Such comments underline why plain packing is supported by the Chief Medical Officer for Wales and the Children’s Commissioner for Wales. It has majority public support (63%) and is widely supported by parents in my constituency.

I’m pleased that the Welsh Health Minister is looking at our devolved powers to see what unilateral action we might be able to take on plain packaging.

But I don’t doubt that concerted action throughout the UK is the best option.

We must defeat the mantra that those who want to up the pace of reform are advocates of the nanny state and greater regulation.

We must show how plain packaging will save lives and money, and is clearly the right thing to do.”

Note: An edited version of the arguments above was delivered in Parliament due to the large number of MPs who wished to contribute to the debate 

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