The PRA has reinforced its opposition to plain packaging for tobacco with meetings with health officials in Scotland and promises of a robust response to the Westminster government’s new consultation announced on Thursday June 26.

Last week PRA chairman Brian Madderson together with two members of the PRA’s Scottish Regional Committee – Jamie Wood, director of St Michael’s Services, and Cameron Gold, managing director of Glasgow-based Thames Petroleum (Scotland) – met with officials at the Tobacco Products Control Team at the Scottish Department of Health.

Madderson said during an hour-long meeting the PRA delegation confirmed that tobacco was the second biggest seller in money terms in Scottish filling stations after fuel, and that it accounted for between 30% of forecourt shops’ sales and up to 60% in some rural locations.

They presented evidence from two PRA surveys where members said plain packaging would financially harm their businesses because of the potential for extra handling and mis-selling of products, and said this was borne out by the experience of retailers in Australia where plain packaging has been introduced.

They also pointed to evidence from Australia about increased sales of illicit products and increased tobacco consumption because consumers were migrating to cheaper brands which meant they could buy more.

Madderson said: “Members are overwhelmingly concerned that a decision could be made before the experience in Australia is fully understood.

“This increasingly appears to be a political decision rather than one that is based on hard evidence.”

Madderson also promised a “robust” response to the new consultation. In addition to the evidence from Australia he said there was also the issue of other legislation that is already in the pipeline.

“With the display ban coming into force for smaller stores next year, and the EU Tobacco Directive in 2016/17 increasing the size of health warnings on packs, what would this additional measure achieve?”