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New cigarette branding research sparks packaging debate

RESEARCH showing how brightly-coloured cigarette cartons help hook kids on smoking relit the debate on plain packaging laws in Britain yesterday.

In the wake of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report Scotland's SNP government renewed its pledge to ban tobacco branding.

The institute's research showed the number of daily smokers dropped from 15.1 per cent to 12.8 per cent between 2010 and 2013 after plain packaging laws were introduced in Australia, even before a tobacco tax hike was imposed.

And the average age of a first-time smoker rose from 15.6 in 2010 to 16 in 2013.

The news comes a year after Westminster’s coalition government said it had put plain packaging measures on ice on the grounds legislation should wait until the results of Australia’s plain packaging policy became clear.

But the coalition did agree to launch a joint consultation with the Scottish government last month — and public health watchdog ASH’s chief executive Deborah Arnott said the latest study was “exactly” what Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt had been asking for.

“Well, here it is — and it demonstrates a massive decline in smoking prevalence in Australia following introduction of standardised packaging.

“This is exactly the strong and convincing evidence the tobacco industry said was needed,” she said.

In Scotland, SNP Public Health Minister Michael Matheson hailed the research as proving the role colourful branding played in luring children and young people to take up smoking.

The Scottish government was “determined to legislate” if Westminster failed to, he added.

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