From today (Saturday), all tobacco products sold in the UK will come in plain standardised packaging, as decades of harmful marketing tactics by the tobacco industry draw to a close.

“Standardised packs will help protect the next generation from an addiction that kills around two thirds of all long term smokers.”Alison Cox, Cancer Research UK

Alongside standardised packaging, a series of new regulations and taxes also mean smokers are paying more for a pack of cigarettes than ever before. The average smoker will now spend more than £2000* each year fuelling their addiction. That’s enough to fill a family’s food trolley for six months, buy a pair of Premier League season tickets, or even take the kids to Disneyland.

Smoking already disproportionately affects the lowest earners – it is the single biggest cause of health inequalities in the UK and these figures also highlight the significant economic burden tobacco places on society.

Price is one of the biggest deterrents to smoking – the higher the price of a pack, more people will quit. By increasing tobacco tax, smoking rates and health inequalities will fall.**

The restrictions*** are designed to make cigarettes less attractive to the hundreds of children who start smoking in the UK every day**** – and will result in noticeable changes to cigarette packaging and products including:

  • A minimum pack size of 20 cigarettes as packs of 10 will no longer be on sale
  • Larger health warnings and graphic images
  • All wording confined to a uniform size and design on a muddy green background
  • No misleading information such as ‘low tar’ or ‘organic’
  • A ban on flavoured cigarettes and flavoured rolling tobacco

Huge progress has been made in tobacco control and the introduction of standard packs is the latest in a large number of effective measures already in place. The smoking ban, increased taxes and putting tobacco out of sight in shops have all helped to change attitudes and decrease smoking rates.

Alison Cox, Cancer Research UK’s director of prevention, said: “Smoking is still the single largest preventable cause of death in the UK and kills around 96,000 people every year – this cannot continue.

“For decades the tobacco industry has got away with promoting their products in slickly designed packaging, which distracts from the true lethal and addictive nature of the contents.

“Today marks a momentous victory in the battle for a tobacco free future. Standardised packs will help protect the next generation from an addiction that kills around two thirds of all long term smokers.

“But there’s still a lot more to do – there is a real opportunity for the next government to help the UK’s 9 million smokers quit for good.”


Click here to view or embed a focus group video of primary school children discussing tobacco packaging, unscripted and unprompted, highlighting the impact of colourful, slickly designed packs:

* The average adult smoker spends around £2,040 every year on smoking in Great Britain.

Calculated by the Statistical Information Team at Cancer Research UK 2017, based on the average daily cigarette consumption for adults (16+) in Great Britain in 2015 (11 cigarettes per day) and the price of a typical pack of premium cigarettes in the UK in March 2017 (£9.91). Sources: Adult smoking habits in Great Britain 2015, 201 and the price of a typical pack of premium cigarettes in the UK in March, 2017:  


*** Standardised packaging is just one of many changes being made under the EU Tobacco Products Directive.

****An average of 136,500 children aged 11-15 started smoking between 2012 and 2014 in the UK, it is estimated. That’s more than 370 per day.

Source: The NHS Information Centre for Health and Social Care. Smoking, drinking and drug use among young people in England in 2014.