The UK is set for some big changes in smoking laws, from price increases and package size to plain packaging, starting May 21st in hopes of encouraging older smokers to quit while discouraging youth from picking up the habit. Vaping, which the UK hopes will replace cigarettes, will also have changes.
Prior to these new changes, smokers have been able to buy 10-packs, but that has now been banned. Instead, smokers will only be able to purchase their cigarettes in plain packages in the ‘”world’s ugliest colour” opaque couche,’ a muddy green. Forget looking for fruit, candy, spice, herbs, alcohol and vanilla flavored cigarettes as those have been banned as well. And menthol cigarettes will start a slow demise as they are being phased out and will no longer be available by 2020. The cheapest pack of cigarettes has also gone up and will now cost £8.82 or $11.41 as of today’s exchange rate. Want to roll your own? Loose tobacco, which was sold in 10g and 20g packets now have a minimum of 30g per bag.
So why the plain packs? According to a public survey conducted in 2015, 72% support them versus 15% who were against them. Removing the branding and coloring changes the “attitudes and beliefs” and myths that some products were actually less harmful if sold in lighter colored packaging. The new packs will also have larger warning labels. Side-slide packs will also be discontinued. Australia was the first country to make plain packaging the law and they have had success in reducing “daily smokers to just 13% of the population.”
Tobacco users in the UK aren’t the only ones seeing new laws; vaping will have a few of their own including the size of the tanks and the strength of the liquids. Tank size will be regulated to “no more than 2ml,” with liquids sold in 10ml refill containers. Nicotine strength can be “no more than 20mg/ml,” and products containing nicotine must be in child-resistant packaging as well as be tamper proof. Labeling requirements and warnings of liquids are also part of the law. Not all ingredients in the liquids will be allowed, including coloring, caffeine and taurine, an ingredient found in energy drinks. And manufacturers have to inform the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (similar to our FDA) about new products. Some e-cig users have suggested they will turn to the internet and buy their liquids from manufacturers abroad. The new regulations don’t touch disposable e-cigs or liquids with 0% nicotine.
Of course the world’s top four tobacco firms filed legal motions against the changes stating “there was a lack of evidence that plain packaging would deter smokers,” and the changes would “destroy their property rights by making products indistinguishable from each other.” Their legal maneuvers failed. The next country to take up plain packaging is France starting January 1. These new laws just help the U.S. get one step closer to putting plain packaging regulations in our country.