A law banning the use of branded cigarette packaging from May 2016 looks all but certain to get the go-ahead after the government committed to giving MPs a free vote on the issue before the general election.
A majority of MPs from across the political spectrum are thought to be in favour of the move, making it a near certainty that the law will be enacted in England – Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland would need to apply their own legislation.
This would see packs limited to a dull brown with the brand name the only text allowed aside from public health warnings. Officials believe the move could save thousands of lives by disincentivizing people from picking up the habit.
Public health minister Jane Ellison said: “We cannot be complacent. We all know the damage smoking does to health. This government is completely committed to protecting children from the harm that tobacco causes."
The cigarette industry itself isn’t likely to take a ban lying down however and may mount a legal challenge to thwart the move.