Tobacco companies have condemned the government announcement today that it looks set to press ahead with the introduction of plain tobacco packaging, following a report by Sir Cyril Chantler, despite what many believe is inconclusive evidence to justify it. Public health minister Jane Ellison said draft regulations would be published.
A statement released by BAT said: "We are disappointed to hear that Sir Cyril Chantler has concluded that plain packaging could be an effective measure for public health in the UK, despite recognising ‘there are limitations to the evidence currently available’.
"Therefore, based on the evidence included in Sir Cyril’s report, the conclusion that plain packaging is an effective measure for public health defies logic.
“We urge the UK Government to look at the data from Australia, where after one year it is clear the plain packaging experiment has failed.
“The data shows that plain packaging has not had a positive effect on public health in Australia. What’s more, the Government must consider the wider implications of this policy given the increase in the illicit tobacco market and A$1billion in lost taxes to the Australian government.
“Since plain packaging was introduced in Australia:
•The amount of tobacco sold equated to an increase of 59 million cigarettes, the first increase in Australian tobacco volumes in over five years •The 3.3% average annual decline in Australian smoking rates from 2008 to
2012 has eased, down to 1.4% in 2013
•Illicit trade in tobacco has increased from 11.8% to 13.3% boosting profits for the black market and the criminals that run it.
“Furthermore, we believe plain packaging fails to respect our minimum guaranteed rights on trade mark protection, contravenes EU law, affects property rights under UK law and infringes the UK’s obligations under international law.
“We are clearly not alone in this view given five sovereign states are all at various stages of challenging Australia’s decision to introduce plain packaging via the World Trade Organisation with 35 countries, the highest ever, expressing an interest to observe and potentially contribute.
"We support sound regulation that is consultative, evidence-based, delivers its policy aims and factors in potential unintended consequences providing it doesn’t infringe on our legal rights as a business.
“Given the evidence from Australia included in Sir Cyril’s report shows plain packaging has failed we don’t see how the UK Government could justify implementing this policy.
“We hope the UK Government continues its logical and pragmatic approach by dismissing plain packaging and looking at alternative tobacco control measures following the announced consultation.”
Philip Morris International said: “Sir Cyril Chantler has chosen to disregard the evidence on plain packaging from Australia - the only country in the world to have implemented it. Instead he has based his conclusions exclusively on the same questionable research that failed to make the case for plain packaging when the Government found insufficient evidence to proceed with the policy last year.
“Plain packaging has failed to cut smoking rates, has not deterred youth smokers and has been accompanied by a dramatic growth of the black market. In Australia, legal tobacco sales actually rose in the year following the introduction of plain packaging.
“As the Government today made clear, Sir Cyril Chantler’s review looked only at one element of the potential impact of plain packaging. The Prime Minister and the Government have committed to look at the wider evidence on the economic, legal and crime impacts of plain packaging. The Government should not rush to proceed without holding the full impact assessment they have promised.”
Colin Wragg, Imperial Tobacco’s head of UK corporate and legal affairs, commented: “We are extremely disappointed that despite the lack of credible evidence that plain packaging will help achieve the stated public health objectives, the Government is pressing ahead with this irrational and disproportionate policy.”
“Sir Cyril Chantler recently saw first-hand the negative effect plain packaging has had in Australia. While smoking prevalence remains unchanged, the legislation has acted as a boon for criminals partaking in illicit trade. Since its introduction illicit trade has increased from 11.8 to 13.3 per cent of total consumption.
“The Government should also undertake a thorough evaluation of existing UK tobacco control measures - such as the display ban and the European Union Tobacco Products Directive - before embarking on new legislation which will have a damaging effect on our retailer community. All of these factors will see retailer profits further harmed - at a time when the Government should be supporting small businesses that are the cornerstone of our economy.”
Wragg concluded: “To add to this, plain packaging will infringe the intellectual property rights and right to commercial free speech of those selling a legal product. We will take this opportunity to submit further evidence that plain packaging will not contribute to the Government’s public health objectives and encourage retailers to make their voices heard during the new consultation period.”