I was concerned to read the piece in Holyrood magazine relating to proposals, the details of which have still not yet been released by government, for the plain packaging of tobacco products (‘Plain truths,’ 23 March).
The focus for government and public health policy-makers should rightly be on reducing youth smoking, and therefore on preventing children’s access to cigarettes, not their appearance.
The Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association (TMA) and its members are committed to preventing under-18s from accessing cigarettes and we support a range of youth access prevention measures including the UK’s leading proof-of-age card Citizencard and the ‘No ID, No Sale’ campaign at tills.
UK youth smoking rates are at their lowest level for a generation (currently 5 per cent) and we support evidence-based measures to reduce it still further.
But there is no reliable evidence that plain packaging would reduce rates of youth smoking; not least given that nowhere in the world are cigarettes sold in plain packs.
Neither the Government nor ASH have identified packaging as a ‘trigger factor’ for youth smoking.
Instead they linked youth smoking to factors including age and gender, home life, peer pressure and truancy and exclusion from school.
Plain packaging would impact yet further on the day-to-day work of retailers who are at the heart of many communities, including longer transaction times and more arduous stock-taking procedures.
Easily faked plain packets will be a gift to criminals behind the illicit trade in tobacco and make it much harder for the authorities to identify illicit products, increasing the £3.1bn per year – £8.5m per day – currently lost to the Treasury.
Counterfeit tobacco products are already widely available in markets and car-boot sales across the UK.
Illicit traders do not care who they sell to, and they frequently target children. Increasing illicit trade will drive up criminality in Scotland across the board.
I hope that the Scottish Government will seriously consider whether supporting an untried measure that is likely to damage local shops, increase local crime and fail to reduce youth smoking rates is in the best interests of Scottish people.
Jaine Chisholm Caunt
Secretary-General, Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association