Retailers are being urged to back a campaign against the introduction of plain packaging for tobacco products, with a consultation on the proposal set to start later this month, according to today’s Independent Retail News.
Smokers’ group Forest kicked off its Hands Off Our Packs campaign last week, with many lobbyists expecting the three-month consultation to be unveiled on national No Smoking Day on 14 March.
Health campaigners around the world are pressing governments to introduce plain packs, with Australia set to be the first country to adopt the measure later this year.
Simon Clark, director of Forest, told Independent Retail News: “We hope to get as many retailers on board as possible because it’s an issue that’s going to have a big impact on small retailers and village stores.”
He claimed that as the ban on smoking in public places had contributed to the closure of pubs around the country, so plain packs could lead to small retailers shutting up shop.
Store owners should raise the issue with their MPs, Clark said. “If just half a dozen retailers in a constituency write to their MPs, the politicians will take that issue seriously. We would simply urge retailers to write to their MPs and contact us as well. We can provide them with campaign tools, leaflets to hand out to their customers, window stickers, anything they need to get the message across.”
He added: “The concern we have is this won’t stop with tobacco. The next logical step would be to put alcohol in some form of plain packaging. We would find a situation in 20 years’ time when a significant number of products that small retailers rely on for their regular income are supplied in plain packs.”
At the launch of Hands Off Our Packs, Mark Littlewood, director general of the Institute of Economic Affairs think-tank, said: “There is not a shred of evidence to suggest that banning the branding of cigarettes will reduce the number of children or adults taking up smoking.”
Chris Snowdon, author of a report about plain packaging published last month, said the measure “seems to be aimed at inconveniencing retailers, stigmatising consumers and helping counterfeiters.”
But anti-smoking group Ash said there was “a growing body of evidence” supporting the idea that plain packaging will help prevent young people from taking up smoking.
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