Focus on cigarette packaging is plainly not the way to go

First published in Comment

FURTHER to your report of June 18 — “Public urged to back campaign for plain placket cigarettes — I would like the opportunity to present the facts of this issue for your readers. We absolutely agree that the focus for government and public health policy-makers should be on reducing youth smoking, and, therefore, on preventing children’s access to cigarettes — not their appearance.

The Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association (TMA) and its members are committed to preventing under-18s from accessing cigarettes and we support a range of youth access-prevention measures, including the UK’s leading proof-of-age card Citizencard and the No ID No Sale campaign at tills.

UK youth smoking rates are at their lowest level for a generation — currently five per cent — and we support evidence-based measures to reduce it still further.

But there is no reliable evidence that plain packaging would reduce rates of youth smoking; not least given that nowhere in the world are cigarettes sold in plain packs.

Neither the Government nor ASH have identified packaging as a “trigger factor” for youth smoking.

Instead, they linked youth smoking to factors including age and gender, home life, peer pressure and truancy and exclusion from school.

Plain packaging would impact yet further on the day-to-day work of retailers, who are at the heart of many communities — including longer transaction times and more arduous stock-taking procedures.

Easily-faked plain packets will be a gift to criminals behind the illicit trade in tobacco and make it much harder for the authorities to identify illicit products, increasing the £3.1 billion per year — £8.5 million per day — currently lost to the Government.

Counterfeit tobacco products are already easily available in markets and car-boot sales across the UK.

Illicit traders do not care whom they sell to — and frequently target children.

Increasing illicit trade will drive up criminality in the Bolton area.

Therefore, it does not make sense to introduce an untried measure that is likely to damage local shops, increase local crime and fail to reduce youth smoking rates in Bolton.

Peter Osborne Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association London

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