Standardised “plain” packaging starts 20th May 2016


From 20th May 2016 laws surrounding tobacco packaging will change. From this date all tobacco products manufactured for sale in the UK must comply with the new laws. There is a one year transitional period for the sell-through of old stock and from May 2017 all tobacco products on sale in the UK must comply with these regulations.

Under the new packaging and labelling regulations cigarettes and tobacco will no longer be sold in bright, glitzy packs, but in drab green packages. [To see the effects of attractive packaging see here for a short video produced by Cancer Research UK.] They will have large graphic images on the front and back of the packets to highlight the health effects of smoking and health warnings must appear at the top of all packs. The new packaging rules are contained in two sets of regulations:

1. Regulations requiring cigarettes sold in the UK to be in standardised “plain” packaging” [1]
2. The revised Tobacco Products Directive [2]

Standardised “Plain” Packaging
Standardised or “plain” packaging is tobacco packaging that has had all the attractive features removed. In March 2015 MPs voted overwhelmingly in favour of introducing regulations to standardise the appearance of all tobacco packaging in the UK [3]. This includes:

• The material, size, shape and opening mechanism of the packaging;
• The colour of packaging and cigarettes;
• The font, colour, size, case and alignment of text.

Tobacco Products Directive
The Tobacco Products Directive applies to all tobacco products manufactured and sold within EU member states. With regards to tobacco packaging the revised TPD will:

• Require combined picture and text health warnings to cover 65% of the front and back of cigarette and roll-your-own tobacco packages. [4]
• Require health warnings to appear at the top of the packet (as per the illustration).
• Prohibit certain promotional and misleading descriptors on packaging of tobacco products such as “lite”, “natural” and “organic”.
• Require that cigarettes are sold in packs of a minimum of 20 sticks and Hand Rolling Tobacco in a minimum of 30 gram packets.

The Tobacco Products Directive will also:

• Prohibit cigarettes and roll-your-own tobacco with characterising flavours, for example, fruits, chocolate. Menthol tobacco will be prohibited from 20th May 2020.
• Introduce EU-wide tracking and tracing to combat illicit trade of tobacco products. This will apply from 20th May 2019 for cigarettes and hand rolling tobacco and 20th May 2024 for all other tobacco products.
• Electronic cigarettes – the TPD also includes a number of regulations regarding electronic cigarettes. For more information see the ASH briefing: The impact of the EU Tobacco Products Directive on e-cigarette regulation in the UK