Shares in tobacco firms have suffered a knock after news that a law introducing plain cigarette packaging in England could come into force before May. As Hayley Platt reports it ends years of debate and lobbying over the issue.
Branded cigarette packaging could soon become history in England. Replaced by disturbing images aimed at deterring the next generation. The government has decided to legislate. Junior Health Minister Jane Ellison says it's partly in the interests of children's health. SOUNDBITE: Jane Ellison, Junior Health Minister, saying (English): "This government is completely committed to protecting children from the harm that tobacco causes. That's why I'm announcing today we will be bringing forward legislation for standardised packaging before the end of this parliament." Smoking kills one in ten adults worldwide. Doctors say the move will save thousands of lives in Britain. But it's likely to hurt tobacco firms' profits. Shares in Imperial Tobacco fell more than 1 percent on the news. And cigarette sales in Australia have fallen since plain packaging became law there in 2012. Tobacco firms say covering brands will infringe intellectual property rights and increase the trade in black market cigarettes. But the opposition Labour party welcomed the decision, saying it should have been made sooner. SOUNDBITE: Luciana Berger, Shadow Health Minister, saying (English): "I'm delighted that the government has finally listened to he thousands of public health experts that have been calling for the introduction of standardised packaging of tobacco for a very long time. We've been pushing relentlessly it from opposition. We've seen many uturns over the course of the past few years and a number of different reviews." The law is still subject to a parliamentary vote. But the government hopes it will be in force before the general election in May. That might not be the end of it though - Australia's ban led to a series of international legal challenges from other countries and manufacturers.