The marketing of cigarettes is to be restricted in the UK after MPs in the House of Commons voted by 367 to 113 to require tobacco companies to sell their products in plain standardised packs.

The new regulations, which were bitterly opposed by some Conservative MPs with a history of tobacco industry support and Ukip, go to the House of Lords next week and, providing there are not too many highly-paid tobacco company consultants (lobbyists) there, should take effect from May next year. The move has been welcomed by the British Heart Foundation, Asthma UK and Action on Smoking and Health on the basis that it will save thousands of lives and help prevent the next generation from taking up the habit.

Britain’s former prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, blotted her copybook before her death by “making the strongest anti-smoking speech ever made by a prime minister” and then taking on a lucrative consultancy for Philip Morris, which included “helping resist attempts to ban tobacco advertising in the European Community” activities that earned her the cruel nick-name The Fag Lady.

There is concern that the current negotiations over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership agreement taking place in unjustified secrecy in Brussels will allow large companies to sue governments for compensation if laws passed by them affect their profits. On the basis of a similar ill-conceived agreement in place between Hong Kong and Australia Philip Morris is challenging the plain packet legislation for its products already introduced by the Australian government.

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