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Britain Votes in Favor of Plain Packaging for Tobacco Items

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Britain moved a step ahead in its anti-tobacco campaign after the House of Commons passed regulations for plain packaging on cigarette packs which will come into effect as of mid-2016.

The regulation was passed by a majority of 254 votes, backed by 367 Members of Parliament along with Prime Minister Davis Cameron.

The vote in the House of Commons in British parliament follows the announcement on Jan 21 by U.K. Public Health Minister Jane Ellison that the British government supports the ban on brand packaging for cigarette packs. The standardized packaging rule requires tobacco manufacturers to include both pictorial and text warnings on cigarette packs to dissuade smokers.

Per the law, the warning should cover more than 65% of both the front and back covers. Further, colors like dull brown on the outside and white for the inside can be used for retail packaging.

Notably, the European Union also intends to implement the ‘The New Tobacco Products Directive’ fully around the same time. The Directive — endorsed by the European Parliament in Feb 2014 — received a green signal from the Council of European Union (EU) on Mar 14. This is a revised version of the original Tobacco Products Directive issued in 2001 and imposes stricter rules on the sale of tobacco products in the European region.

The new rule bans the sale of flavored cigarettes and roll-your-own-tobacco in the region. However, member states may exempt ‘Other Tobacco Products’ such as cigars and cigarillos from the ban. The revision was made in order to make tobacco products less attractive to young smokers.

Governments around the world are imposing restrictions on tobacco companies which, in turn, are lowering cigarette consumption and affecting margins. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also has made it mandatory for these companies to use precautionary labels on cigarette packets to discourage smokers.

The plain packaging concept was pioneered by Australia in 2011 (Read: Australia Harsher on Smoking). Ireland was the first country in Europe to enact plain packaging. It passed a legislation on Mar 10, 2015, which is expected to come into force in May 2016.

Anti-tobacco activists commend U.K.’s decision to introduce plain packaging as they believe many countries will follow suit.

These rules will pose a significant problem for the tobacco majors like Philip Morris International Inc. (PM - Free Report) , Reynolds American Inc. , Lorillard Inc. and Altria Group Inc. (MO - Free Report) that are already being affected by the anti-smoking campaigns worldwide.

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