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Bland cigarette packets delayed

News | Published:

PLANS to force Channel Island shops to sell tobacco products in brand-free, drab standardised packaging only have been delayed by Brexit, it has emerged.

Martin Knight, Head of Health Improvement Picture: ROB CURRIE. (25273392)

Under the plans cigarette packages would continue to feature graphic images and warnings about the health effects associated with smoking, but would otherwise be plain.

But in the event that the UK is unable to reach a deal with the EU, Guernsey and Jersey’s governments could be prevented from using European Commission-copyrighted imagery currently used by EU countries with blank-packaging rules in place.

As a result, the islands have put off introducing the new rules and have now drawn up contingency plans to use Australian imagery and warnings instead.

It follows the signing of a ministerial decision by the then Health Minister, Andrew Green, in July 2017, instructing law drafters to begin drawing up the new legislation.

Similar laws were put in place for tobacco packaging produced after 20 May 2016 in the UK and France, 30 September 2017 in Ireland and from 2012 in Australia, among other jurisdictions.

Martin Knight, director of public health policy, said the process had been slower than first anticipated.

‘Work had to be halted due to Brexit, as Jersey had to prepare alternatives for the current graphic health warnings, which are a requirement on tobacco packaging. This is because if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, it, along with the Crown Dependencies, will not have access to the images highlighting the dangers of smoking which the jurisdictions currently use, as the European Commission owns the copyright,’ he said.

‘These images have been a requirement on tobacco packaging in Jersey since 2011. When it emerged there may be a no-deal Brexit, work was undertaken to ensure Jersey had access to similar images. Due to this work, if the UK leaves without a deal, Jersey will now be able to use Australian versions of the warnings.’

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According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, nationwide use of tobacco fell 12.2% between 2013 and 2014 – around a year after the brand-free standardised packaging was introduced in the country.

And Mr Knight added that despite the delays, it was still the Health Department’s intention to introduce the measure.

However, a government spokeswoman was not able to say when the new rules might come into force.

‘We are committed to introducing standardised packaging and will submit the drafting instructions to the law draftsman as soon as possible,’ Mr Knight said.

‘The intention of standardised packaging which includes graphic health warnings is to encourage smokers to stop smoking.

‘It has also long been recognised that branded packaging plays an important role in encouraging young people to take up smoking. This is because standardised packaging improves the effectiveness of health warnings and reduces misleading messages that one type of cigarette is less harmful than the other.’

Ed Taylor

By Ed Taylor
Journalist

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