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Standardised Packaging of Tobacco Products Regulations 2015

The Standardised Packaging of Tobacco Products Regulations 2015 came into force on 20 May 2016.

Background: consultation and review

The government’s 2011 tobacco control plan included a commitment to consult on standardised tobacco packaging. They ran this consultation in 2012 and published a summary report in July 2013.

The consultation received 2,444 detailed responses in total. The report outlined that responses were highly polarised, with business interests tending to be against proposals to further regulate tobacco products, while public health and NHS stakeholders were in favour of greater tobacco control.

In November 2013, the department requested an independent review of the public health implications of standardised packaging. The review concluded that branded packaging increases tobacco smoking prevalence and plain packaging would result in a ‘modest but important’ decrease in smoking rates, particularly among children and young adults.

Draft regulations and a free vote

The Department of Health issued a further consultation on draft regulations on standardised packaging of tobacco products in June 2014. The proposals for retail packaging allowed only:

  • specified mandatory colours (brown outer and white inner)
  • specified text (such as the brand and variant name), conforming to certain requirements
  • required markings such as health warnings and fiscal marks.

In January 2015, Public Health Minister Jane Ellison announced that MPs would be given a free vote on the regulations.

On 11 March 2015, MPs voted in favour of introducing plain packaging for cigarettes in the UK. 367 MPs voted in favour of standardised packaging, with 113 opposing. 


The regulations came into force on 20 May 2016, with a 12-month window for full implementation. This coincided with the introduction of further control measures as a result of the European Tobacco Product Directive coming into force, involving:

  • bigger health warning pictures
  • a ban on flavourings, including menthol
  • packaging controls to combat illicit trade.

The tobacco industry put forward unsuccessful legal challenges to both the tobacco products directive and the UK standardised packaging regulations.


The Standardised Packaging of Tobacco Products Regulations 2015 [webpage]
legislation.gov.uk; 2015.

Department of Health.
Consultation on standardised packaging of tobacco products; summary report.
Department of Health; 2013.

Chantler C.
Standardised packaging of tobacco: report of the independent review undertaken by Sir Cyril Chantler.
King's College London; 2014.

Department of Health Tobacco Programme.
Standardised packaging of tobacco products; draft regulations [webpage].
Department of Health; 2014.

Department of Health.
Government backs standardised packaging of tobacco.
Department of Health; 2015.

Press Association.
Stricter cigarette packaging rules come into force in UK [webpage].
The Guardian;19 May 2017.