Europe leading the way in plain packaging legislation for tobacco products

Europe, following Australia, has become a leader of the movement for the plain packaging of tobacco products. On 3 March, Ireland became the second country in the world, and the first in Europe, to pass legislation on plain packaging. On 17 March, the House of Lords voted with an overwhelming majority in favour of plain packaging in the United Kingdom.

Australia was the first country in the world to introduce plain packaging legislation, in December 2012. Research from Australia shows that when smoking cigarettes from a plain rather than a branded pack, smokers are:

  • 81% more likely to have thought about quitting at least once a day and to rate quitting as a high priority in their lives;
  • 70% more likely to say they find cigarettes less satisfying; and
  • 66% more likely to think their cigarettes are of poorer quality.

Several other countries in the WHO European Region, such as Finland, Norway and Turkey, are working on plain packaging and are on track to introduce legislation in 2015. 

France aims to become one of the leading countries globally working towards plain packaging and is committed to this visionary policy, which is constantly gaining momentum. The plain packaging of tobacco products is part of the new health bill currently under discussion in the French Parliament. 

The WHO Regional Office for Europe is strongly in favour of the plain packaging movement in France and in all other European countries. WHO/Europe will support the movement through bilateral work or by convening leading countries to stand together in confronting possible legal challenges from the tobacco industry.