Plans to introduce plain packaging for tobacco products could be given the go-ahead.
The legislation would be announced in the Queen’s speech in May, a senior Whitehall source told The Guardian.
“We are going to follow what they have done in Australia. The evidence suggests it is going to deter young smokers. There is going to be legislation,” the source said.
However, the Department of Health has refused to confirm or deny the allegation, claiming that it was still in the process of evaluating responses to the public consultation which closed in August.
“We have received many thousands of responses to the tobacco packaging consultation, and are currently in the process of carefully collating and analysing all the responses received,” a spokesman told Convenience Store.
“The government has an open mind on this issue and any decisions to take further action will be taken only after full consideration of the consultation responses, evidence and other relevant information,” he added.
JTI said it was surprised” by the news. “The Department of Health has maintained that no decision has been made,” head of communications Jeremy Blackburn said. “Plain packaging would have serious negative consequences and would be detrimental to many small businesses. Given the importance of this issue the government is duty bound to provide robust and compelling evidence that plain packaging would achieve its policy objectives.”