A report published in the journal Addiction suggests that thousands of lives would be saved in the UK if standardised, blank cigarette packets were introduced.
The report claims that replacing branded packets with standardised versions would reduce the number of people who started smoking in the first place, thus decreasing the number of smokers in the future. In a summary of evidence gathered by researchers, the study suggests that stopping 1 in 20 new smokers would save 2,000 lives per year in the UK alone.
MPs will vote on new legislation in March this year and any changes to the law, which would pave the way for standardised packets, are expected to come into play in 2016.
In contrast to the report, tobacco manufacturers claim that standardising packets would make little difference and used the example of Australia to support their point. Manufacturers claim that changes in packaging, which were introduced in Australia in 2012, have had minimal impact.
MPs will vote on changes in England and Wales, although Wales has already expressed a strong desire to go ahead. Scotland and Northern Ireland will vote separately.
Under new legislation, packets would be the same size, shape and colour. Brand names would be small and inconspicuous and every packet would carry health warnings.
In the Addiction journal report, researchers claimed that standardising packaging reduced “unconscious triggers” in smokers, prompted shop, bar and café owners to make cigarettes less visible and made health warnings more prominent.
Prof Robert West, editor in chief of the journal, said that all the evidence points in the same direction to suggest that standardising packaging would have a positive impact on health.