Plain packaging on tobacco products would be a powerful addition to smoking cessation, anti-smoking campaigners said.
Speaking to Independent Nurse, Amanda Sandford, information manager at charity Action on Smoking and Health, said: 'Plain packaging has been the missing link in smoking policy. There is evidence that children find the packaging on cigarettes appealing, which may lead them to purchase a pack. The packets are the last form of advertising available to tobacco companies, and we feel strongly that plain will be positive for smoking cessation.'
Carol Carter, clinical lead for Birmingham Community Trust's stop smoking service, said: 'Anything that impacts upon young people talking up the habit of smoking must be viewed as a positive move. Up to 200,000 people under the age of 16 start to smoke every year. We must not forget that smoking is the biggest cause of preventable illness and death with smokers dying on average 10 years younger than non-smokers.'
Public health minister Jane Ellison announced on 21 January that the government intends to hold a vote on the introduction of standardised packing for cigarettes and rolling tobacco before the May general election. The proposals could be implemented as soon as May 2016, at the same time as the European Tobacco Products Directive, if MPs vote in favour.
The proposals include mandatory colours for packaging (brown on the outside, white on the interior), and permitting only the brand and variant name to be written on the package.
Ms Carter added: 'I think plain packaging can remove the element attractiveness of the cigarette package, we are all consumer-led, and tobacco companies can target the design of their products to appeal to certain members of the population.'
Ms Sandford cited the example of Australia's plain packaging policy as evidence of the measures efficacy. She said: 'Australia has had plain packaging for around two years now, and there is mounting evidence that it not only reduces the number of children who take up smoking, but also discourages adult smokers from continuing to smoke.'
The Australian National Drug Strategy Household Survey for 2013-14 showed that the proportion of daily smokers aged 14 years or older in Australia fell from 16.6 per cent in 2007 to 12.8 per cent in 2013, while the total consumption of tobacco products was at a record low in the first quarter of 2014. Ms Sandford added: 'While we welcome these proposals, we must also ensure that smoking cessation services are fully resourced by the government, to help as many as possible.'
The European Tobacco Products Directive will ban flavourings including menthol and will require packages to include larger health warnings.