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Move to stub out cigarette branding
The Government will pave the way for cigarette packets to be stripped of all branding, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has said.
The coalition's public consultation on plain packaging will launch on Monday, with Mr Lansley telling The Times attractive packaging enticed smokers.
He said he was "open minded" about the consultation, but added: "We don't work in partnership with the tobacco companies because we are trying to arrive at a point where they have no business in this country."
Such a ban would be the latest attack on smoking after previous governments banned tobacco companies describing certain brands of cigarettes as "lights", outlawed sponsorship deals and forced firms to publish on packets graphic, gruesome images of cancerous organs and stark warnings about the potential health effects of lighting up.
Chancellor George Osborne announced in last month's Budget that the price of a packet of 20 cigarettes would rise by 37p to an average of £7.36.
Mr Lansley's latest comments came a week after a ban on tobacco promotion in England came into force. New laws mean all large shops and supermarkets must cover up cigarettes and hide tobacco products from public view.
The Department of Health said the move was in response to evidence that cigarette displays in shops can encourage young people to take up the habit.
More than 300,000 children under 16 try smoking each year and 5% of children aged 11 to 15 are regular smokers, according to its figures. Meanwhile, 39% of smokers say that they were smoking regularly before the age of 16.
Pro-smoking group Forest, the Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco, has launched a Hands Off Our Packs (Hoops) campaign. Director Simon Clark has described plain packaging as "the persecution of a minority lifestyle choice".
Mr Lansley, who said there was "no harmless level of smoking", dismissed claims that smoking could become more attractive to young people if it was hidden and insisted the key issue was about "shifting the culture".