A poll commissioned by the PRA shows retailers are increasingly opposed to Government proposals to introduce plain packaging of tobacco products in the wake of evidence from Australia.

In the week that an independent review into plain packaging is due to report, the Populus poll undertaken for the PRA reveals that:

·          73% of retailers say plain packaging would hurt their businesses, up from 65% last year

·          90% believe direct tobacco sales are important to their bottom line, up 11-points from last year

·          79% believe it would cause people to turn to the black market, where they can access cheap, branded packs

·          Nine in ten people (89%) say it would make counterfeiting easier.

·          84% of retailers surveyed said that implementing plain packs would go against the Government’s pledge to help small business.

PRA chairman Brian Madderson said: “Retailers already feel abandoned by a government that promised to help business but has instead unleashed a blizzard of new regulations, leaving them to foot the bill.

“Small retailers are facing the cost of introducing the point of sale display ban next year, so it is absurd that the government might now adopt plain packaging when there is not a shred of evidence that it would reduce smoking rates.

“The more retailers hear about the impact of plain packaging in Australia, which is the only country to experiment with the measure, the more opposed they are to seeing it introduced in the UK. Retailers are unanimous in their belief that the Government should fully evaluate the Australian experiment before implementing plain packaging here.”

According to the Australasian Association of Convenience Stores (AACS), 70% of retailers have been negatively affected by plain packaging, with 67% saying that the growth of the black market has had an impact on their business since plain packaging was introduced.

AACS CEO Jeff Rogut said: “We would urge the UK not to make the same mistake as Australia by adopting plain packaging. The spike in costs to retailers from plain packaging, combined with a booming illegal trade is having a dramatic effect, with retailers being forced to absorb additional costs at the same time as losing customers to the black market.”

Madderson concluded: “The experiences of retailers in Australia serve to reinforce the need for a thorough impact assessment before this policy goes any further and this must include a full evaluation of Australia’s experiment with plain packs.”