The PRA has expressed concern after new evidence emerged from Australia of the negative impact of plain tobacco packaging on retailers.

PRA chairman Brian Madderson said: “Our members have had long-held concerns about the unintended consequences of this proposal. This latest report – which supports earlier research from Australia – simply confirms the fears of our members; that their businesses would suffer as a result of illicit trade, lost revenue and increased service times were plain packaging to be introduced anywhere in the UK.

“This further evidence only serves to underline our message to Government, both in Westminster and Holyrood; that the policy of plain packaging should be based on evidence and nothing else. While we wholeheartedly agree with the Government’s aim of reducing youth smoking rates, there is no credible evidence to show that plain packaging would achieve this result.

“However, as today’s report confirms, there is strong, and growing, evidence from Australia that such a policy would negatively impact the businesses of our members, our economy and boost the illicit tobacco trade. We urge the Scottish Government to follow the same approach as the Government and wait for the evidence. To seek to plough ahead with this policy will seriously threaten economic growth, jobs and businesses in our sector.”

New independent research - The Impact of Plain Packaging on Australia Small Retailers - released by the Australasian Association of Convenience Stores nine months after the introduction of plain packaging in Australia, has shown that there is no evidence to suggest smoking rates have gone down as a result of Australia’s plain packaging law.

Instead, the nationwide survey of small retailers in the country reveals retailers continue to be burdened by additional staffing costs and service issues, as well as an increase in the illicit tobacco trade.

The report carried out by Roy Morgan and commissioned by Philip Morris shows:

• Two-thirds of small retailers claim plain packaging has negatively impacted their business;

• 78% experienced an increase in the time taken to serve adult smoker customers and 62% report additional time is spent communicating with these customers about tobacco products;

• 62% of small retailers have faced increased frustration from adult smoker customers and 65% have seen an increase in the frequency of staff giving the wrong products to customers (primarily due to difficulty in recognising/distinguishing between brands);

• 34% of retailers have experienced increased frequency of attempted product returns predominantly due to customers being given a product they did not ask for.