I could not agree more with your article of 29 November (Working together in anti-smoking purge) when it reports on the importance of educating school pupils on the dangers of smoking. As a responsible retailer, I take my responsibilities to protecting young people from smoking very seriously by always insisting on proof of age such as Citizencard. However, I do not agree that putting cigarettes into plain packaging is the answer and, if the Government truly believes in an evidence-based approach to policy making, it should not be considering plain packaging. I say this because, throughout my time in retail, none of my customers have told me they started to smoke because of the ‘look’ of the packets. Instead, they talk about the influence of family and friends. I also know that if plain packaging was to go ahead it would play right into the hands of the criminal counterfeiters who would make even larger profits than now from faking the packets as more enter this lucrative illegal market – at the expense of legitimate retailers. Currently, something like a fifth of cigarettes in West Yorkshire are illegal. Your readers might be interested to know that the EU is considering plain packaging by the back door – whatever the UK Government decides. This is despite the vast majority of responses to an EU consultation being opposed to the proposed changes that would ban menthol cigarettes, packs of less than 20 cigarettes and purchases of less than 40 grams of loose leaf tobacco. None of this would deliver their health objectives whilst again encouraging counterfeiting of cigarettes packs and undermining small retailers.
Member of the Tobacco Retailers Alliance