New cigarette laws come into force this weekend and shops have just 24 hours to clear shelves of any old stock.
From Sunday all brands must be sold in uniform sludge green colours and carry graphic warnings of the dangers of smoking.
Tobacco giants have had a year to repackage and re-size their iconic brands and it will be illegal to sell cigarettes in non-standard cartons.
Sizes have also been brought into line with ten packs replaced by at least 20 to ensure there is enough space on the front for health warnings.
The shake-up is to make desirable, designer brands less attractive and deter young people in particular from taking up the habit.
Hand-rolled tobacco will also be in the same drab green colour with pouches containing at least 30g of tobacco.
And vaping is affected as e-cigarettes are cut down in size to 2ml tanks while the nicotine strength of liquids has been capped at 20mg/ml.
They must also carry a health wanting stating: “This product contains nicotine which is a highly addictive substance.”
The new rules also include a ban on menthol cigarettes from 2020 and promotional statements such as “this product is free of additives” or “is less harmful than other brands”.
Standardised packaging regulations, which is a UK initiative, comes into full effect on Sunday after being rolled out from May 20 last year.
And the rules for minimum pack sizes and e-cigarettes start today (Sat).
The industry had challenged both the Tobacco Products Directive through the European Court of Justice (ECJ) and standardised packaging regulations through the UK courts.
But its appeal went up in flames last year after the ECJ ruled that the directive was lawful, and days later the industry’s legal challenge to standardised packaging was defeated in the UK courts.
Last month the UK Supreme Court refused the tobacco industry leave to appeal the decision any further.
The new rules are an attempt to cut the number of smokers across the EU by 2.4 million.
An estimated 700,000 premature deaths are caused each year, and cancer charities are backing the measures.
The UK was only the second country in the world to pass legislation on standardised packaging after Australia in 2012, with many others following on including France, Ireland, Hungary and Norway.
Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) chief executive Deborah Arnott said: “Getting rid of glitzy, heavily branded tobacco packs is the latest in a long line of achievements by the UK which is a global leader in tobacco control.
“We now have among the fastest declining smoking rates in the world thanks to decades of sound policy, but smoking rates among the poorest and most disadvantaged remain high.
“If this is to change then a priority for the next Government must be to publish a new tobacco control plan with tough new targets, focused on tackling health inequalities.”
But smokers’ group Forest said the new regulations treated adults like kids and would make no difference to public health.
Forest director Simon Clark said: “The new regulations are a disgraceful attempt to denormalise both the product and legitimate consumers.
“There’s no evidence they will have the slightest impact on public health.”
How is the law changing on cigarettes and tobacco?
- You will not be able to buy smaller packets of cigarettes
- Smaller bags containing less than 30g of roll up tobacco will also be banned
- By May 21, the cheapest packet of cigarettes will cost £8.82
- Menthol cigarettes, which experts say have often been aimed at beginner smokers, are being gradually phased out
- Cigarette packets are set to be plain, with graphic images which show people the impact that tobacco has on health
Some flavoured cigarettes and roll-your-own tobacco, including fruit, spice, herbs, alcohol, candy or vanilla, will also be made illegal.
Why is this happening?
According to the charity Action on Smoking and Health (Ash), phasing out menthol cigarettes will deter younger people from smoking.
Amanda Sandford, of Ash, hopes the new rules will make smokers think twice about spending money on cigarettes when the price of a packet hits them hard in the pocket.
She said: “Cigarettes are already expensive and the price increase of cigarettes is a key factor in making people quit smoking.
“So by removing the packet of ten cigarettes this means people will have to find that extra money for a packet. It will hit poorer smokers harder, who are usually younger smokers.
“Paying £3 or £4 for a packet of ten cigarettes at the moment might not seem so much to people and still leave them with change in their pockets.
“But when you have to spend £6/£7, even £9, people may think, ‘Do I really need this packet?'”
Why is the packaging changing?
Ms Sandford said: “This is to make smoking less appealing.
“There is evidence that from the changes that have already been made to packaging that it has made people quit smoking.
“And that is because people are faced with very harsh health images every time they pick up a pack of cigarettes.
“All packaging will have a plain green background with a very dominant health warning image on them.”
The brand name will be written in a standard font, size and location and the new health warnings will cover 60 per cent of the pack.
(Photo: Getty Images)
Are menthol cigarettes better for you than standard cigarettes?
Ms Sandford said there is evidence to suggest that menthol cigarettes make it easier for people to smoke.
She said: “It is naturally hard to inhale smoke and for many the first time they smoke it is repugnant, but people persevere and that is when they become addicted.
“There is evidence that menthol cigarettes relax the airways and the flavour masks the harshness of the smoke, therefore younger people find it easier to smoke.
“However it is an absolute myth that menthol cigarettes are better for you.
“All cigarettes are harmful and menthol cigarettes are just as dangerous as normal cigarettes.”
Ms Sandford said: “E-cigarettes are a different product and there are currently no plans in place to stop the different flavours that are available.
“People that use e-cigarettes are usually already smokers so if they are now using e-cigarettes that is much better for them.
“We know that they are not risk-free, however, and research is still going on into the long term effects of using them.
“Some flavours can be more problematic but it is not possible to say for sure at this time, which.”