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England to insist on plain cigarette packaging

Third country to implement change after Australia and Ireland

As England is set to introduce standardised cigarette packaging, Imperial Tobacco has warned the British government that it will sue to protect its intellectual property rights. Photograph: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

British MPs have voted by a large majority to force cigarette manufacturers in England to sell cigarettes from May next year in standard, olive-green packets, accompanied only by the name of the brand and graphic health warnings.

The legislation passed with support from the Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats, although 113 Conservatives opposed it, believing it is unacceptable interference in the market and the public’s right to choose.

England is the third country to order standard packaging rules, following Ireland’s decision earlier this month and Australia’s last year. The Scottish and Welsh governments will follow suit.

Imperial Tobacco has warned the British government that it will sue to protect its intellectual property rights. Meanwhile, the Australian government is defending an action before the World Trade Organisation.

Praising politicians, one leading campaign group, Ash, said they had “resisted the bully-boy tactics and misinformation of the tobacco industry” and implemented the single most important public health reform of the last five years.