Cancer campaigners have hailed the introduction of plain packaging for all tobacco products sold in Northern Ireland as a “momentous milestone”.
From this weekend, cigarettes must be sold in standardised green packaging bearing graphic warnings of the dangers of smoking, as rules designed to prevent young people taking up the habit come into full effect.
All packs must contain a minimum of 20 cigarettes to make sure the packs are big enough for health warnings to cover 65% of the front and back, with the brand name restricted to a standard size, font and colour.
The EU Tobacco Products Directive has allowed the UK to go further with its regulations to require all tobacco packaging to be uniformly green with large images showing the harmful effects of smoking.
Packaging of hand-rolled tobacco must also be in the same drab green colour and pouches must contain a minimum of 30g of tobacco.
Margaret Carr, Cancer Research UK’s public affairs manager in NI, said reducing the appeal of tobacco products was “essential”.
She added: “This measure to remove the branding, colours and misleading descriptions from tobacco packs, is a momentous milestone in the battle for a tobacco free future.
“Our aim is to see a tobacco-free Northern Ireland by 2035, where fewer than five per cent of the population smoke. Important measures such as phasing out brightly coloured and slickly designed tobacco packaging will go a long way to preventing people from starting smoking in the first place.”