Ministers in England have decided to move forward with plans that will force retailers to sell cigarettes in plain packaging.
Despite a backlash from her own party, Conservative MP and public health minister Jane Ellison is keen to see plain packaging introduced by spring 2015, following a short consultation.
According to PA, Ms Ellison cited what she called a “compelling” review commissioned by the government which she said had shown plain packaging would improve public health and cut the number of child smokers.
“In light of this report and the responses to the previous consultation in 2012 I am therefore currently minded to proceed with introducing regulations to provide for standardised packaging,” Ms Ellison told parliament.
She also told MPs the latest independent report, by paediatrician Sir Cyril Chantler, has found evidence that the Australian legislation has had a positive impact.
However, the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) believes more consideration is needed regarding the effect on retailers.
CEO of the ACS, James Lowman, said: “Tobacco plain packaging will have a significant negative impact on local shops. We are disappointed that although ministers say they will consider these impacts, they have pre-empted this consultation with a statement that they intend to impose this measure.”
He added: “We have consistently urged ministers to carefully weigh the projected health benefits of plain packaging against the proven burdens on business evident in Australia.”
Colin Wragg, Imperial Tobacco’s head of UK Corporate and Legal Affairs, commented: “We are extremely disappointed that despite the lack of credible evidence that plain packaging will help achieve the stated public health objectives, the Government is pressing ahead with this irrational and disproportionate policy.”
He added: “Sir Cyril Chantler recently saw first-hand the negative effect plain packaging has had in Australia. Whilst smoking prevalence remains unchanged, the legislation has acted as a boon for criminals partaking in illicit trade. Since its introduction illicit trade has increased from 11.8 to 13.3 per cent of total consumption.”
Daniel Torras, MD of Japan American Tobacco (JTI) UK said: “The latest reports from Australia indicate that plain packaging has had no positive impact at all and that the illegal trade is increasing. For the Chantler review to discount the only “real world” evidence available is inexplicable.”
“The Chantler report does not and could not justify the deprivation of assets that are worth billions of pounds. In 2007 Japan Tobacco bought Gallaher, for £9.4bn, which demonstrates the significant value of our brands and the company. The introduction of plain packaging would be unlawful as it unjustifiably infringes a number of JTI’s fundamental legal rights which are protected by UK, EU and international law, including its right to property, freedom of expression and freedom of trade.”