The British Dental Health Foundation says it is delighted that the government have brought forward plans to introduce standardised packaging of tobacco in England.

Public Health Minister Jane Ellison MP told the House of Commons on Wednesday of plans to introduce the measure would be brought forward, with ministers deciding on the ruling before this year’s general election.

The move will also hopefully bring about improvements in oral health and a reduction in the number of mouth cancer cases, and Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter OBE, welcomed the decision.

Dr Carter said: “We have often criticised the government on its lack of movement on the issue, but I am delighted that this vote has been brought forward. There was a concern that the government would continue to drag its feet over the decision, but after a review of the evidence available it is pleasing to see standardised packaging just over a year away.

Australian Cigarette Packet by Jack Greenmaven via Wikimedia Commons

By Jack Greenmaven

“Smoking can cause a variety of oral health problems including tooth staining, dental plaque, bad breath, tooth loss and gum disease. Of more concern is the significant risk of developing life-threatening diseases such as lung disease and mouth cancer.

“Tobacco remains the largest risk factor for mouth cancer, a disease that has increased dramatically in the last decade. Last numbers show there are more than 6,500 cases and 2,000 deaths each year from the disease. This announcement is a significant and large step in the right direction to start reducing those figures.”

Announcing the decision the Health Minister said: “Smoking remains one of our most significant public health challenges. It is a major cause of cancer, heart and respiratory disease and almost 80,000 people in England alone die every year from ill health caused by smoking. It places an enormous strain on the NHS.

“Having considered all the evidence, the Secretary of State and I believe that the policy is a proportionate and justified response to the considerable public health harm from smoking tobacco. The Chief Medical Officer has confirmed this view.

“I now propose that we lay regulations for standardised packaging in this parliament to allow for them to come into force at the same time as the European Tobacco Products Directive in May 2016. In doing so we would be bringing the prospect of our first smoke-free generation one step closer.

If these plans are introduced, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will decide what course of action they wish to take, but results in Australia have shown how effective standardised packaging is after being introduced in 2012.

Dr Carter added: “I hope all MPs across the UK back the measure when it comes to vote so we can see levels of health improvement seen in Australia.”

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