British American Tobacco’s response to UK government’s Tobacco Control Plan for England
9 March 2011
A British American Tobacco spokesperson said:
"The Government has said it has "an open mind" on plain packaging and "wants to hear views"” but there is currently no policy proposal to respond to.
"We support their decision to ensure that there is robust evidence to demonstrate that plain packaging would have a public health benefit as well as the need to carefully explore the competition, trade and legal implications of any policy decision.
"It’s important to make clear that there is no evidence to suggest that plain packaging would have any impact on smoking uptake by young people. In fact, all the research over many decades points at peer pressure being the main reason children start smoking.
"The unintended consequences of introducing plain packaging could make cigarettes more accessible to children at a time when youth smoking is at an all-time low at 6%.
"Counterfeiters currently having to go to some trouble to match colours and designs on packs to trick their customers into thinking they are getting the real thing, and they often get it wrong making detection of fakes easier. If the government insists cigarettes are sold in plain packs, it would be like Christmas for counterfeiters and the criminal gangs who smuggle cigarettes into the UK.
"Criminals selling counterfeits have no problem selling their cigarettes to children. Our concern is a policy designed to make tobacco less accessible to children could end up having the opposite effect.
"Plain packaging would prevent companies from using valuable corporate assets and risk placing governments in breach of various legal obligations relating to intellectual property rights, international trade and European law. It would also set a dangerous regulatory precedent for brands owned ad used by other industries.
"We have made it clear that we will take every action necessary to protect our valuable brands, our right to compete as a legitimate commercial business selling a legal product.”
"When it comes to display bans, we still believe a ban on the display of tobacco products in shops is not justified because there is no reliable evidence suggesting it will lower smoking rates or stop young people from starting to smoke.
"We believe an "under the counter" culture will serve to increase the black market by blurring the line between legitimate and illicit cigarettes making it harder to reinforce the message that smuggling, counterfeit and piracy are crimes.
"The Government already accepts that the illegal trade makes cigarettes more accessible to children, often at pocket money prices.
"Recent official estimates are that 13% of cigarettes and 56% of hand-rolling tobacco sales in the UK are illicit. Cross-border shopping takes the figures to 21% and 67% respectively."