The PRA is urging the Government not to rush ahead with plain packaging before properly reviewing all evidence. It is concerned that the Government is seeking to move ahead with draft regulations at the same time as carrying out a further consultation.

It believes the Government should take a full and proper look at all the implications of this policy, before making a decision on standardised packaging of tobacco products.

The announcement by Health Minister, Jane Ellison, follows the publication of a review led by Sir Cyril Chantler into the health benefits of such a proposal.

Brian Madderson, chairman of the PRA said: “While it is a sensible step for the UK Government to further consult on the wider impacts of this policy, I am concerned that the Government are seeking to move quickly ahead with draft regulations. Plain packaging is a policy which has very unclear benefits yet a whole host of unintended consequences associated with it. The results from Australia have shown that plain packs increase the illicit tobacco trade, which is already rife across the UK, harm retailers and does nothing to reduce smoking.

“The PRA were pleased to receive a recent letter from Michael Fallon, Business Minster which sets out a holistic and pragmatic approach toward tobacco policy. The Minister stated that ‘The Coalition Government has taken some very positive actions intended to reduce smoking rates, particularly amongst children and young people. It is important that any further steps that the Government takes add value over and above the impact of the measures that we are already taking’. With the point of sale display ban coming into force next year for small shops, and the tobacco products directive the year after, it would be absurd for the UK and Scottish Governments not to follow the advice of the business secretary – they need to take the time to review this policy over and above those measures already being implemented."

A recent poll of PRA members highlights just how concerned the independent retail trade are about plain packaging:

- 73%of retailers said 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

- 84% of retailers say implementing plain packs would go against the Government’s pledge to help small business

- 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

Brian Madderson concluded: “The Government must undertake a proper consultation on this issue absorbing ALL the evidence emerging from Australia of the unintended consequences. Chantler himself accepts that the evidence from Australia is ‘modest and has limitations’. Petrol forecourts across the UK are already seriously suffering and this policy could tip them over the edge.”