Plans for tobacco are Plain nonsense

by Jeremy Blackburn

With the consultation on plain packaging for tobacco products closing this month, the outcome could have serious repercussions for local retailers. With this “commercial vandalism” potentially becoming law, there’s plenty to be concerned about.

On 16th April this year, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley launched a UK-wide consultation on standardised packaging of tobacco products, commonly referred to as plain packaging.

The Government suggests that plain packs would prevent young people from starting to smoke but, whilst JTI agrees that children and young people should not smoke and should not be able to buy tobacco products, there’s no credible evidence that standardised packaging will achieve this objective. It simply won’t work and will instead have serious unintended consequences on UK businesses. We are concerned that the Department of Health will aim to justify plain packaging using the best guess and subjective views of its preferred panel of individuals and that these people will be already involved in tobacco control work and studies.

Serious concerns

The seriousness of plain packaging, if introduced, cannot be over-stated. As far as JTI is concerned it amounts to commercial vandalism, with serious concerns around illicit trade and ultimately its impact on retailers. Think about it: if you were a criminal – a cigarette smuggler – what would be on your wish list?

First: you would wish for high taxes; the higher, the better, as your product is cheaper, a lot cheaper. That is already the case in this country. Governments take about 80% from every cigarette pack sold.

Second: you would welcome display bans; as it makes the boot of your car or a stall at an open market quite attractive: no excise to pay to Government, no margins to pay to shopkeepers, no manufacturing costs or investments to make in your business etc.

And finally, plain packaging: because reproducing the pack is an expensive part of your criminal operation and the less you have to invest the bigger your margin.

JTI launches first campaign around “plain” cigarette packs

With the ink not even dry on the display ban legislation, it’s shocking to see that the Government is already looking at introducing further untested and anti-business regulation. This incessant layering of legislation is also at odds with the Government’s claims that reducing regulation is a priority.

That’s why, last month, to openly share our views on what we consider a flawed consultation, JTI launched a £2m advertising campaign.

This national initiative intentionally highlights the distinct lack of evidence supporting the Department of Health’s consultation on plain packaging, which also ignores the Government’s own Better Regulation rules. To view the campaign materials visit

Consultation closing

With just a matter of days to go until the consultation closes on 10th August, we encourage all retailers, who haven’t done so already, to engage in the debate with Government and respond to the consultation to protect their legitimate business interests. Visit, call, email or write to your MP to tell them how this would impact your business. If you’re unsure who you’re local MP is simply visit – or telephone 0207 219 3000.

It’s so important that retailers spread the word – inform others in the trade about what’s going on and the negative impact that this could have on their business.

Hopefully the Department of Health will re-think its approach and common sense will prevail.


“With the ink not even dry on the display ban legislation, it’s shocking to see that the Government is

already looking at introducing further untested and anti-business regulation.”


Jeremy Blackburn is Communications Manager for JTI, the second largest tobacco company in the world, with brands including Benson & Hedges, Silk Cut, Amber Leaf and Hamlet.

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