Health officials in Nottingham hope that the introduction of standardised packaging for tobacco this week will help reduce the number of children taking up smoking.

From Sunday (21 May), cigarettes and hand-rolling tobacco will no longer be sold in packets with the familiar colours and designs that smokers would instantly recognise.

Instead, they will appear in standard packaging with the same green-brown colour, and containing graphic pictures and health warnings on the side. The only way to differentiate between brands will be the product name but this will also be uniform – appearing in the same font and size.

The new regulations came into force in May 2016 and gave tobacco companies a year to make sure that all packets on sale in the UK complied with the changes. Standardised packaging aims to reduce the uptake of smoking among children and young people by removing the ‘silent salesman’ of more eye-catching packaging.

It is hoped in Nottingham that the move will help to reduce the numbers of under-18s taking up smoking.

Adult smoking prevalence in Nottingham is 24% which trails the national average of 17%. Two thirds of adult smokers say they took up the habit before they were 18, and nearly 40% before they were 16.

Evidence shows that children who live in a household where people smoke are up to three times more likely to become smokers themselves.

Alison Challenger, Director of Public Health at Nottingham City Council, said: “We fully support these proposals and hope that they will complement the work we have been doing for many years to reduce the harm caused by smoking.

“A large part of our tobacco strategy in Nottingham focuses on a vision to create a smokefree generation and, specifically, to take smoking out of the sight of children.

“Standardised packaging has been shown to be very effective in Australia, where it was introduced in 2012. Rates of smoking among under-18s have fallen away further since, and that is so important in terms of breaking generational cycles of tobacco use. An additional benefit was that many long-term smokers started to question their habit and were motivated to quit.

“We have great support networks in place in Nottingham through stop-smoking services like New Leaf which can help people to quit, but it’s just as important to try to stop them taking up the habit in the first place. Standardised packaging can help us to achieve that.”

Other changes due to be introduced this weekend include:

  • Cigarettes will no longer be sold in packs of 10 – the minimum will be 20
  • Roll-up tobacco will be sold in minimum pack sizes of 30g
  • The cheapest pack of cigarettes will cost £8.82
  • Menthol cigarettes will begin to be phased out over the next three years
  • Some flavoured cigarettes and roll-your-own tobacco, including fruit, spice, herbs, alcohol, candy and vanilla, will be made illegal

The City Council’s trading standards department will continue to investigate the sale and distribution of illegal tobacco and will be checking that businesses comply with the new packaging requirements.

Last year, Nottingham City Council’s Trading Standards Service seized 436,555 illegal cigarettes and more than 347kg of illegal hand-rolling tobacco to support the efforts to reduce smoking prevalence across the City.

Councillor Toby Neal, Portfolio Holder for Community and Customer Services at Nottingham City Council, said: “We will continue to seize any tobacco products not complying with the law, including these new measures on plain packaging.  The penalties for selling such products can be severe, so I would urge anyone involved in such activities to stop now.”

New Leaf provides free support to help people stop smoking.  There are one-to-one sessions across Nottingham city, including some evenings and weekends. They also provide text and email support and are happy to work with people using e-cigarettes to help them quit.

Smokers are four times more likely to quit using an NHS stop-smoking service than trying to stop on their own.  There are three ways to get in touch with New Leaf.

The team can provide support all along the way to becoming a non-smoker. They also provide stop-smoking products to help with cravings and other withdrawal symptoms.

Anyone with any information about illegal tobacco can call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.