Introduction of plain cigarette packaging
Around 18% of all UK deaths are attributable to smoking (Health and Social Care Information Centre 2013) and around 1 in 5 Britons is currently a smoker.
Any measure which is effective at reducing smoking prevalence could thus plausibly lead to gains in UK life expectancy (Health and Social Care Information Centre 2013).
One such possible future step is the introduction of standardised (plain) cigarette packaging.
This is widely expected in the UK over the relatively short term following an independent report (described briefly below) which found that similar legislation in Australia has had a positive impact.
A systematic review of research relating to the effects of plain packaging of tobacco found that smokers perceived plain packaged tobacco as less satisfying and attractive than packaged tobacco, and this effect was observed among both younger and older adults (Moodie et al., 2012).
In addition to this, initial findings from Australia where plain packaging was introduced in December 2012 found that smokers of plain packaged cigarettes were more likely to perceive the tobacco as "of lower quality" and "less satisfying" leading to greater likelihood of cessation compared to smokers of branded cigarettes (Wakefield et al., 2013)
In April 2014 an independent review of the evidence (produced for the government by Sir Cyril Chantler) concluded that plain packaging is likely to lead to a modest but important reduction in smoking prevalence - and thus a positive public health impact - over time (Chantler 2014).
Update: January 2015 - Legislation brought forward
This legislation has now been brought forward with MPs in the House of Commons now set to vote on plain packaging before the May 2015 General Election. Introduction in England is tabled for May 2016. The exact design of the packages (e.g. with or without images) has also yet to be decided.
Jane Ellison, public health minister said: "Smoking remains one of our most significant public health challenges. It is a major cause of cancer, heart and respiratory disease and almost 80,000 people in England alone die every year from ill health related to smoking."
"Having considered all the evidence, I believe that the policy is a proportionate and justified response to the considerable public health harm from smoking tobacco. The Chief Medical Officer has confirmed this view."
"I now propose that we lay regulations for standardised packaging in this Parliament to allow for them to come into force at the same time as the Tobacco Products Directive in May 2016."
Update: March 2015 - Legislation approved
MPs in the House of Commons voted in favour (367 - 113) of the introduction of standardised packaging from May 2016.
Health and Social Care Information Centre: Statistics on Smoking: England, 2013.
Plain tobacco packaging: a systematic review. London: University of London, Institute of Education, Social Science Research Unit, Plain tobacco packaging: a systematic review
Moodie C, Stead M, Bauld L, McNeill A, Angus K, Hinds K, Kwan I, Thomas J, Hastings G, O'Mara-Eves A. "Plain Tobacco Packaging: A Systematic Review". London: University of London, Institute of Education, Social Science Research Unit,
Melanie A Wakefield, Linda Hayes, Sarah Durkin, Ron Borland, ‘Introduction effects of the Australian plain packaging policy on adult smokers: a cross-sectional study’, British Medical Journal, 22 July 2013,
Standardised packaging of tobacco Report of the independent review undertaken by Sir Cyril Chantler 2014.