Smokers’ lobby group Forest has launched a website that gives opponents of plain packaging of tobacco the opportunity to petition the Westminster government when it begins a UK-wide public consultation on the issue in the spring.
The petition, says Forest, is in response to Plain Packs Protect, a campaign launched in January by an alliance of tobacco control groups including Smokefree South West and Action on Smoking and Health (ASH).
Simon Clark, director of Forest, said: “Public consultations on tobacco control are effectively public sector consultations. Thousands of public workers are deployed to persuade MPs there is overwhelming support for the latest tobacco control initiative.
“All over the country groups funded by the taxpayer will be gathering signatures or signing their own petitions. We want to give opponents of pointless regulation the voice they are often denied.
“The Hands Off Our Packs website and petition will give ordinary consumers the chance to have their say as well.”
Clark added: “Stephen Williams MP, chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health, has challenged us to ‘rise to the debate’. We are delighted to accept the challenge and look forward to sharing a platform with Mr Williams and other advocates of plain packaging in the very near future.”
Opponents of plain packaging who have pledged their support for Hands Off Our Packs include Mark Littlewood, director-general of the Institute of Economic Affairs; Claire Fox, director of the Institute of Ideas, and Josie Appleton, director of the Manifesto Club which campaigns for “freedom in everyday life”.
The Hands Off Our Packs campaign will be launched next month. It will be run and managed by Forest which is supported by British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco Limited and Gallaher Limited (a member of the Japan Tobacco Group of Companies).