Scotland’s health minister Michael Matheson said it was disappointing that the UK government had decided not to take action on the standardised packaging of tobacco products.
He added: “The Scottish government remains committed to introducing standardised packaging, given the strong evidence to support the impact it will have on preventing young people from starting to smoke.
“We will now identify an appropriate timescale to introduce legislation on standardised packaging to the Scottish Parliament.”
It follows UK health minister Jeremy Hunt’s announcement last week that the government would delay any plans to ban company branding on tobacco packaging until it has seen the impact of similar action in Australia, where plain packaging legislation has been in place since November 2011.
In a written statement published alongside the government’s long-awaited Consultation on the Standardised Packaging of Tobacco Products, Hunt said: “Having carefully considered these differing views, the government has decided to wait until the emerging impact of the decision in Australia can be measured before we make a final decision on this policy in England.”
In March, Scotland launched a tobacco control strategy making it the third country in the world to set an ultimate target of becoming tobacco-free and having less than 5% the population choosing to smoke by 2034. The strategy also included a commitment for the introduction of standardised packaging and education programmes to prevent young people from starting to smoke.
Mike Ridgway who fronts a lobby group of UK packaging firms, said that last week’s announcement from the Scottish government suggested more thought is also needed north of the border.
“All they have done is said they are thinking about a timescale. Who knows how long that might be? I’m sure they are committed but they are thinking about the practicalities.
“How easy is it going to be if everything in Scotland has to have a different packaging design on it than south of the border? I think that would be a serious problem for retailers.”
Institute of Packaging Professionals managing director Kevin Vyse said that both governments need to carry out more research before changes are made.
He added: “There needs to be more in-depth data. We live in a world where branding plays a huge role and we need to properly look at how this would impact such an industry and all those businesses involved in it.
“Changing to standardised packaging won’t stop smokers and in fact it is our belief that the gruesome pictures and lack of branding could in fact encourage a sort of cult behaviour with younger smokers.
“I don’t think this is as much to do with waiting for evidence from Australia, where I don’t think there is much evidence yet, but more to do with political expediency and a very powerful tobacco lobby that pays a lot of money into the economy.”