The Government will have “failed” the next generation if it does not introduce plain, standardised cigarette packs, a trade union has warned.
The Community Practitioners’ and Health Visitors’ Association said that thousands of children’s lives will be put at risk if ministers do not introduce the measure.
Officials have been weighing up the move for more than a year, and it was widely expected for the initiative to be announced during tomorrow’s Queen’s Speech.
But last week, reports suggested that the Prime Minister has scrapped plans to force manufacturers to sell their tobacco products in plain packs of uniform design.
Ros Godson, professional officer for public health at the association, which represents health visitors, school nurses, nursery nurses and other community nurses, said: “The litmus test will be if the Government has proposals for the appropriate legislation in the Queen’s Speech tomorrow.
“If ministers walk away from this issue – when Cancer Research UK evidence shows that 570 children in the UK take up smoking every day – they will have failed this and the next generation of young people.
“Thousands of children’s lives will be put at risk – and the scarce resources of the NHS will be stretched even further.
“Research has shown that standardised packaging does not put in jeopardy the jobs of those working in the tobacco industry – but it can actively deter young people taking up this dangerous pastime.”
Last April, the Government launched a consultation on plans to introduce mandatory standardised packaging for tobacco products.
Health experts have welcomed the proposal, but opponents claimed it would lead to increased smuggling and job losses.
In December, Australia became the first country in the world to put all tobacco products in uniform packs.
Cigarette packets and other products are all sold in a standardised colour, with only the brand name and graphic warnings visible.
The Smokefree Action Coalition, which is an alliance of more than 100 health organisations including leading charities, health workers’ unions, royal colleges and campaign groups, last week wrote to David Cameron to implore him to follow in the footsteps of Australia and introduce the measure.
Alison Cox, Cancer Research UK’s tobacco policy lead, said: “The government has a responsibility to safeguard children’s health by curbing the tobacco industry’s promotion of a lethal addiction. And it must ignore the industry’s misleading multi-million pound campaign to protect profits.
“Smoking causes 100,000 deaths a year, 60,000 of them from cancer. There is clear evidence that introducing standardised plain packs will reduce the appeal of cigarettes and give children one less reason to take up smoking.”
Copyright Press Association 2013