Tobacco firm fumes over cigarette packaging plans
Feb 2 2010 By Holly Williams
EMBASSY maker Imperial Tobacco today slammed UK plans to force firms to sell cigarettes in plain packaging and claimed the move would fuel illicit trade.
The group said Government proposals announced yesterday for generic packaging would make it easier for counterfeits and smugglers.
Bristol-based Imperial added that there was "no credible evidence that young people start smoking or adult smokers continue to smoke because of tobacco packaging".
"We remain strongly opposed to the plain packaging of tobacco products," it said.
The UK would be the first country to introduce a plain packaging rule, which could see current designs scrapped in favour of plain packs with the brand name in text.
But the Department of Health stressed the plans were at a very early stage.
Health Secretary Andy Burnham outlined the potential move as part of a raft of measures to halve the number of smokers in England from 21% of the population to one in 10 in the next 10 years.
The Government also hopes to cut the estimated 200,000 young people who start smoking every year.
Imperial today said in a trading update that the UK cigarette market had increased by 1% in 2009, with 45.5 billion cigarettes sold, while the fine cut tobacco market grew by 21% to 4,650 tonnes.
Its average share of the market remained largely steady at 45.2%.
The group’s brands include JPS, Davidoff, Lambert & Butler and Golden Virginia.
Imperial has hiked the price of its cigarettes over the past year, with the most recent rise seeing the average retail price of a pack of 20 increase by 27p, or 5%.
The group said this was partly due to reversal of the temporary VAT reduction on January 1.
The group faces a tough Government stance on smoking as it seeks to step up efforts to reduce the number of smokers in Britain.
Yesterday’s proposals also include extending the smoking ban to entrances to buildings, stopping the sale of tobacco from vending machines, greater NHS support and investment to stop illicit cigarettes.
Around 200 million illicit cigarettes enter the UK each year, according to the Government.
But Imperial said it believed plain packaging would "undermine the Government’s plans to increase investment in tackling smuggling and counterfeiting".
The plain packaging idea was previously mooted in a Government consultation paper in 2008 and the Department of Health said it received "strong support".
It now aims to encourage research to further understand the possible links between tobacco packaging and smoking behaviours.