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Minister rebuffs 'nanny state' claim over tobacco laws

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Plain tobacco packaging is not an extension of the nanny state, health minister Anna Soubry insisted as she stressed no decision has been made on the proposal.

Reports have suggested the government is to shelve plans to introduce legislation forcing cigarettes to be sold in plain packaging after the measure was not included in the Queen’s Speech in May.

Health experts have claimed brightly coloured packs are a marketing ploy used by tobacco companies to entice young people to start smoking, although the government is awaiting evidence from a similar plain packaging policy in Australia before announcing a decision.

Labour MPs and a Liberal Democrat raised concerns about the influence of lobbyists on the government’s approach to packaging laws in the Commons, with claims re-emerging about the impact of Conservative Party strategist Lynton Crosby and his links to the tobacco industry.

Prime Minister David Cameron has previously said Mr Crosby has never lobbied him.

Tory David Nuttall (Bury North) raised his concerns about the policy potentially leading to an extension of the nanny state.

He said to Ms Soubry: “There are those of us who believe it is up to the individual to take personal responsibility for their own health, who entirely support the government’s decision not to have any extension of the nanny state.

“Do you agree with me before we introduce any new laws on tobacco that we ought to enforce more strictly the existing laws around not selling cigarettes to children?”

Ms Soubry replied: “A number of excellent points with which I agree, say for one.

“Standardised packaging is not, with great respect, the extension of any nanny state. It would not impinge on anybody’s freedom or right not only to buy cigarettes but to smoke them.

“It’s all about ensuring the package is not attractive, especially to young people who are at risk of taking up smoking.”

 

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