David Cameron’s u-turn on cigarette packaging branded ‘weak and pathetic’ by Manchester MP and health experts

By Neil Robertson

David Cameron’s u-turn over plans to enforce plain cigarette packaging was branded ‘weak’ and ‘pathetic’ today by a Greater Manchester MP.

Reports suggest the government has been persuaded to scrap the plans after being told they would significantly damage the tobacco industry.

The plans were due to be announced at The Queen’s Speech on May 8, after Cancer Research UK held consultations with the government.

Withington MP John Leech says this u-turn will have devastating consequences on people’s health, and warned that it was a step backward.

“This u-turn is weak and pathetic,” he said.

“If these press reports are true, then Big Tobacco and Big Trade Unions have formed an unholy alliance to stop a progressive plan to reduce smoking, reduce cancer levels and save lives.”

The government’s u-turn has also come under fire from Labour, with shadow health secretary Andy Burnham claiming the government has lost its way on public health.

But Mr Leech pointed out that Labour receives funding from Unite, the trade union opposed to the plans for plain cigarette packaging.

“Labour are right to condemn this u-turn.

“But perhaps they should put their money where their mouth is and stop taking money from Unite, who have been at the forefront of the campaign to stop plain packaging for tobacco.”

Unite have warned in the past that introducing plain cigarette packaging would put workers in the tobacco industry out of work.

They have also argued that it would have little or no impact on levels of smoking, rather, it may increase long-term health problems.

Andrea Crossfield, tobacco control director of Tobacco Free Futures, disagrees with this, saying that the government’s decision will have disastrous health implications for children.

“The Government’s decision to not introduce plain, standardised tobacco packaging as part of the Queen’s speech would be a victory for the tobacco industry and a defeat for our children,” she said.

“In the North West, four out of five children who try smoking do so before they are 14 years old.”

“The government bowing to the usual tobacco industry propaganda would show a complete lack of leadership when we need it most; when lives are at stake.”

Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) was equally critical of the government, highlighting that smoking was the major preventable cause of death and disability.

“For a Whitehall source to say that improving public health and reducing premature mortality is no longer one of the Government’s key purposes is shocking,” she said.

“It will take a lot of explanation if this crucial public health measure is not included in the Queen’s speech on 8 May.”

Picture courtesy of Onigiri-Kun, with thanks.

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