Euro cigarette ban will harm business, says Bolton trader
THE BAN of 10-packs and menthol cigarettes decided by Euro MPs this week could damage UK high streets, according to a Bolton retailer who travelled to Brussels to outline his concerns.
Bhavesh Parekh, aged 27, manager of the Kwiksave in Little Lever, was invited by tobacco giant Philip Morris to join a select group of retailers in meeting a committee of Euro MPs at the beginning of September.
The meeting came a month before European Parliament members voted on a tobacco directive, which yesterday saw 10-packs and flavoured cigarettes banned, with menthol tobacco products to be axed within five years.
Roll-your-own and slim cigarettes survived the vote, while members decided to approve plans for 65 percent of packaging to display health warnings, rather than the 75 percent originally suggested.
Mr Parekh and his companions told Euro MPs that the directive would cost governments huge amounts in tax and cut business for local shops.
He said the outcome of the October 8 vote, which could become law by 2016, was “better than it could have been” but he still has concerns.
“The members we spoke to have clearly taken on board the views we put forward and we seem to have had some sort of impact,” said Mr Parekh.
“The list of things they were going to ban was massive so what they have eventually banned is a relatively small number of things.”
“The biggest change is the 10-packs change and it is unclear what affect this will have.
“Existing smokers will probably still buy cigarettes, but poorer people may sacrifice other goods to compensate, such as food, drink or a paper, which will hit us badly.”
Mr Parekh was chosen to share his views because of the success of his store, which he has managed since 2010, after it relaunched through Costcutter last year.
“These changes could have slashed our take by up to 10 percent, not to mention the affect it would have had on footfall trade,” he added.
“Menthol and flavoured cigarettes will only go underground, and help the black market thrive.”
The Tobacco Products Directive is the centrepiece of an EU drive to make smoking less attractive for younger people.
Mr Parekh’s and other small retailers in Bolton are already braced for the impact of the ban on display advertising, already present in supermarkets, which will compel local shopkeepers to hide tobacco products from the public’s view.
Paul Nuttall, UKIP Euro MP for the North West, said the “contradictory” directive would just make “poor people pooer”.
“People will not stop smoking if packs of 10 are banned, they will simply smoke packs of 20 instead,” said Mr Nuttall.
“We criticise companies such as McDonalds for supersizing their products but, in affect, we are encouraging the tobacco industry to do the same.”
Chris Davies, a Liberal Democrat Euro MP, said he was surprised slim cigarettes were not banned, as they target specific corners of the market, such as young women.
Mr Davies said: “I supported the move to ban 10-packs, but I can see both sides of the argument.
“I think the balance we have struck on warnings on the packets is fine but I maintain that smoking generally should not be banned as adults should be allowed to make up their own mind on whether to risk it or not.”
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