Plain (standardised) cigarette packets will start to appear in UK stores from next year after MPs voted in favour of the plans this afternoon.

The measure was voted in by 367 votes to 113 in the House of Commons.

The legislation is still to be passed by the House of Lords, but if this happens it will be implemented on 20 May 2016. Retailers will have a further 12 months to sell through old stock.

The Association of Convenience Stores said the decision would place further “significant operational burdens on retailers.”

“We are disappointed with this decision, and would have liked to see a review of existing and upcoming tobacco control measures, such as the tobacco display ban, before the government introduced more regulations on small stores,” chief executive James Lowman said.

The “undemocratic” decision was also blasted by UKIP leader Nigel Farage.  “UKIP believes in democracy, Britain’s Parliament, and evidence-based policy,” he said.

“It’s clear that the evidence is not there, given that the illegal tobacco market grew by 25% in Australia after the introduction of plain packs. It is clear that the government had no mandate for this – and thus they allowed no debate in the Commons chamber on the matter.”

JTI’s managing director Daniel Torras also reiterated the tobacco manufacturer’s intention to challenge the legislation in court.  “This divisive legislation has been rushed through Parliament, with little regard for proper scrutiny and debate. Regulators have disregarded the results of public consultations, evidence reviews and impact assessments, not to mention the overlap with other legislation such as the ban on displaying tobacco in shops and the wide-ranging EU Tobacco Products Directive (EUTPD). 

“The government is using the General Election as the finishing line and has hurried this policy along, stifling debate among MPs and giving little opportunity for opposing views to be aired,” he added.

Imperial Tobacco also confirmed that it would challenge the legislation in court if necessary. Duncan Cunningham, head of UK corporate & legal affairs, said:

“We remain clear that the introduction of plain packaging legislation would be a mistake.

 “The evidence from Australia demonstrates that it won’t change consumption trends or reduce youth smoking but will play into the hands of criminals who profit from illicit trade. This policy is bad for business.

“If plain packaging passes into law, we would regrettably be left with no choice but to defend our legal rights in court as we have a fundamental right to differentiate our brands from those of our competitors.”

Plain packaging will come into force at the same time as many of the new  regulations in the revised EUTPD.

Packs of less than 20 cigarettes and pouches of RYO of less than 30g will no longer be able to be manufactured after this date.

The plain (standardised) packaging of tobacco products regulations were laid before Parliament and approved in accordance with section 94 of the Children and Families Act 2014, on 23 February.

They require:

  • All retail packaging to be “dull brown” in colour on the outside and white inside.
  • Only the brand and variant name, number of cigarettes, weight, a barcode and the manufacturer’s contact details to be displayed on packs.
  • All permitted text to conform to a particular typeface and size.
  • All embossing, or texture to be prohibited, as will inserts.
  • Wrappers must also be clear and transparent.

The packaging requirements only apply to retail packaging and so will not affect packaging used in wholesale, and nor will they prevent branding or trademarks from being used in trade magazines or retailer communications.

The regulations only cover cigarettes and RYO and not cigars and other specialist tobacco products such as pipe tobacco.

The government believes that plain packaging will lead to a fall in the UK smoking rate with a health benefit of £29bn and a tax loss of £5bn.