A packet of 20 cigarettes is to be sold encased in 300 pounds of industrial concrete as part of a package of measures to discourage smoking.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said “glitzy designs on packets” attracted children to smoking and it made sense to look at “less attractive packaging that can only be opened with a pick axe.”
Health campaigners have praised the move but smokers’ group Forest said there was no evidence plain packaging cut smoking, though they conceded that a 14 inch thick concrete block reinforced with high tensile steel rods could present a problem for the average smoker.
Mr Lansley said: “Pilot schemes in Glasgow have proved a huge success, cutting the sales of cigarettes to almost zero in some designated areas.”
Shopkeeper Derek Lutz, of Lutz Convenience Store, in Govan, said the new packaging had been an issue for some of his regular customers.
“People are willing to buy the cigarettes but have great difficulty not only opening them, but carrying them out of the shop. One customer not only tore the top pocket of his shirt trying to put the packet there, but he also tore both his hamstrings while loading it onto a wheelbarrow.
“On the plus side sales of industrial drills are up, and we’ve yet to have a packet of fags in the new concrete packaging stolen by shoplifters.”
Health bosses, however, have given the new packaging a lukewarm reception.
An NHS Trust spokesman said: “Yes, it will play its part in reducing smoking, but the trials revealed that smokers were suffering numerous back strains and muscle spasms.
“They were also working up an appetite trying to get into the packaging and are thus eating more unhealthy snacks, like sweets and chocolate.”
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said the increased eating of unhealthy snacks was next on their agenda.
He said: “We are currently exploring legislative measures which will compel all confectionery manufacturers to sell chocolate bars wrapped in razor wire.”