The British Government will start a wide-range consultation on plain tobacco packaging by the end of 2011, after the legal challenges Australia has faced after launching similar legislation.
The move is prompted by a series of recent legal challenges by tobacco majors against Australian laws requiring tobacco products to be sold in plain packaging and health warnings, effective December 2012.
A Department of Health spokeswoman said the tobacco control plan confirms a commitment to consult by the end of 2011 on options to reduce the promotional impact of tobacco packaging, including an option to require plain packaging.
The ministry was looking for legal advice on all aspects of a possible move, including the intellectual property right puplications before it will publish a consultation document that looks at the costs and the additional public health benefits of policy options, she added.
"Only after this work, and gathering views and evidence from public consultation, will we be in a position to know whether it will be possible to proceed and if so, how," the spokeswoman said.
In March 2011, Britain's Secretary of State for Health Andrew Lansley suggested plans to start a move to consider plain packaging under a new tobacco control plan and the government is now in the process to introduce such laws in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The laws will be applicable in 2012 for large retailers and in 2015 for small retailers in the market, which is largely dominated by Imperial Tobacco and Japan Tobacco.
Elsewhere in Australia, Imperial Tobacco has joined hands with Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco to challenge the country's new tobacco packaging laws in the High Court.
Caption: The British Government will start a wide-range consultation on plain tobacco packaging by the end of 2011. Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono.