HEALTH campaigners have praised the Government after ministers made a U-turn over a decision not to introduce plain cigarette packaging.
Earlier this year, proposals to bring in the measure were shelved as chiefs said they wanted to see how it worked in Australia before implementing it in the UK.
But now, health minister Jane Ellison says a review will be carried out into whether or not standardised packaging should be brought in.
“We think the time is right to look at it,” she said. The move follows amendments to include standard packs tabled in the Children and Families Bill which is currently going through the House of Lords.
A review of the evidence, which is to be led by distinguished doctor and academic Sir Cyril Chantler, will report by the end of March.
Subject to its findings, standard packaging could be in place ahead of the 2015 General Election.
Ailsa Rutter, director of North East anti-smoking group Fresh, said: “No parent wants their child to smoke, whether they smoke or not, and the colourful tobacco packs on our shelves are specifically designed to appeal to young people.
“We are delighted that the Government has listened and taken notice.
“After the packs hit shelves in Australia a year ago, the Quitline saw a spike in calls, and smokers reported that they found cigarettes from plain packs less appealing or satisfying.
“Even tobacco industry research shows smoking prevalence fell and awareness of health warnings increased dramatically.”
“Most smokers start as children.While nothing is done, nearly 9,000 North East children will start smoking each year and tobacco multinationals will be able to attract young people to an addictive, lethal product.”
Cancer Research UK has also said it is backing plain packaging.