A detailed response to the government’s plan to introduce plain packaging for tobacco products has been issued by JTI UK managing director Daniel Torras.
He said that successive introductions of regulations on tobacco made it impossible to assess the impact of individual changes and pointed out the decision to press ahead with plain packaging has been made
- the display ban has yet to be implemented in around 80% of tobacco retailers;
- the revised EU Tobacco Products Directive (TPD2) has yet to come in. If found to be legal by the courts, it will include the ban on smaller pack sizes (45% of cigarette and 93% of RYO pack sales in the UK in 2013) that are often favoured by consumers trying to manage their consumption;
- regulations designed to implement measures penalising the proxy purchase of tobacco products for minors by adults are expected to be brought into force shortly.
Torras said: “Evidence of impact and consequences is a fundamental principle behind the introduction of any regulatory measure. However when it comes to tobacco, the Government appears to have thrown away the rule book.
“This Government said in July 2013 it would ‘wait until the emerging impact of the decision in Australia can be measured’, so what has changed? The fact is that no evidence has emerged from Australia showing that plain packaging has accelerated the long-term decline in smoking, and the black market in Australia appears to have increased as international criminals unsurprisingly try to exploit large tax hikes, and the opportunities plain packaging presents.
He added: “Plain packaging is a step too far, and it worries those making other FMCG products too. As Mars stated in its submission to the Department of Health’s 2012 consultation on plain packaging: ‘As well as depriving brand owners of their intellectual property rights without compensation, in the food and non-alcoholic beverages industries the introduction of such legislation would lead not only to consumer confusion (as to both origin and quality), but also to a significant increase of counterfeit products and hence negatively impact on consumers’ health and safety.’
“JTI agrees, and strongly considers plain packaging is unlawful. JTI and others have repeatedly and consistently said that plain packaging would infringe important principles of EU law, and other fundamental rights – including trade mark rights – and goes against obligations under UK and WTO rules. We therefore expect to challenge the proposed legislation should the Government proceed with plain packaging.”