Dr Peter Mackereth said brightly-coloured cigarette packaging was a form of ”silent advertising” for smoking
The government has announced an independent review of cigarette packaging in England, amid calls for action to discourage young smokers.
David Cameron appeared to distance himself from uniform packaging in July, saying further evidence was needed to show whether it would be effective.
But Public Health Minister Jane Ellison said it was now time to “examine the emerging evidence” on a policy shift. Labour said immediate action was needed, “not another review”.
In a Commons statement, Ms Ellison said standardized tobacco packaging would be brought in after the review if “we are satisfied that there are sufficient grounds to proceed, including public health benefit”.
The review, led by pediatrician Sir Cyril Chantler, is set to focus on a pilot scheme in Australia, which became the first country to legislate for standardized packaging in 2011.
For Labour, shadow public health minister Luciana Berger demanded to know why the government was delaying the introduction of plain packaging “still further” having already held a consultation on the issue in 2012.
Opposition leader Ed Miliband added: “The government should have introduced plain packaging earlier this year – we want them to act swiftly, we want them to act now. We don’t need another review. “Every major public health expert agrees this would help the battle against cancer, against young people taking up smoking.”
The government has never officially ruled out changes to cigarette packaging laws, but BBC political Editor Nick Robinson said that private briefings from Downing Street had previously suggested the idea was “dead”.
He said ministers were likely to have been defeated on Lords amendments to the Children and Families Bill, which enjoyed cross-party support, and would have given the government the power to regulate cigarette packaging.
Ms Ellison confirmed that the government would table its own amendment to the legislation, giving ministers the power to introduce regulations “quickly” when Sir Cyril’s review is complete in March 2014 – if they decide to proceed with the policy.