This would mean all cigarette packets look the same, in a standard size and colour with prominent picture health warnings.
The consultation opened on April 16 and was extended by one month to allow the government to hear from the public and to explore whether plain packaging could bring public health benefits.
Cancer Research UK is campaigning for plain packaging as part of a coalition of nearly 200 health organisations* committed to reducing the harm caused by tobacco.
Research shows that putting cigarettes in plain packs makes them less attractive to children. With all traditional forms of advertising tobacco being illegal the tobacco industry has increasingly relied on stylish tobacco packs to recruit new smokers.
One of the world’s biggest tobacco companies, JTI (Japan Tobacco International), is spending £2 million on an advertising blitz for their campaign against the plain packaging of tobacco.
Smoking is responsible for a quarter of all cancer deaths, and eight in ten smokers start by the age of 19.
Jim Richardson, 56, from Prudhoe in Northumberland started smoking when he was about 15 and was diagnosed with advanced and inoperable lung cancer in 2010.
Father of four Jim backs plain packaging and is desperate to help prevent more young people from starting smoking.
“I know first-hand how horrific lung cancer is and how it’s almost always preventable by not smoking in the first place. My wife Di and I run children’s day nurseries and out-of-school clubs caring for young children. I would hate to think that any of the hundreds of children we have looked after might ever go through what I have because they were tempted by glitzy packets attempting to make smoking look cool. There’s absolutely nothing cool about a product like tobacco that causes so much damage.
“To my absolute joy and gratitude my treatment seems to be working. Looking at the CT scans I know that the chemotherapy followed by radiotherapy reduced my cancer to a tiny fraction of its size and I feel as if I’ve been given a second chance. I’m aware that not everyone diagnosed with the disease will respond to the treatment like me, which is why I feel so strongly that we do all we can to prevent young people from smoking and going on to be diagnosed with a smoking related cancer.”
Jean King, Cancer Research UK’s director of tobacco policy, said: “We’ve had such a positive response from across the UK. With more than 75,000 backing the removal of brightly coloured and slickly designed packs, people are aware of the need to continue to find ways to reduce the impact of smoking. Packaging is without doubt a marketing tool that affects how young people think about tobacco.
“Our submission to the consultation outlines the evidence to back plain packaging and the public overwhelmingly support it. We urge the Department of Health to respond to the consultation as quickly as possible to stop another generation from becoming addicted to a product that will kill half of all long term smokers. Plain packaging won’t stop everyone from starting smoking, but it will give millions of children one less reason to start.”
For media enquiries contact the Cancer Research UK press office on 020 3469 8300 or, out of hours, on 07050 264 059.
Notes to editors
* The Smokefree Action Coalition is a group of organisations committed to promoting public health who came together initially to lobby for smokefree workplaces and are now committed to reducing the harm caused by tobacco more generally.