LONDON, March 16 (Reuters) - Plans to ban branding on cigarette packaging in England passed their final legislative hurdle on Monday after lawmakers in Britain's upper house of parliament approved them, meaning firms will be forced to adopt plain, standardised packets.
The move, which had been expected after lawmakers in the lower chamber of parliament backed the measure last week, means the ban will now come into effect in May 2016.
Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative-led government is introducing the measures after years of political wrangling and private lobbying, arguing it will improve public health and cut the number of child smokers.
"This is a decisive moment in the long and patient struggle to reduce, and then end, the horrors that the tobacco industry has brought to our country and to the rest of the world," said Deborah Arnott, chief executive of health charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH).
Cigarette manufacturers last week threatened to take legal action if the ban was approved, saying it infringed intellectual property rights and would increase counterfeiting and smuggling.
The new rules will initially take effect in England only, though the Welsh government has said it will follow suit and Northern Ireland and Scotland are considering a similar step.
(Reporting by William James; Editing by Andrew Osborn)