The U.K. government has issued a consultation on the introduction of regulations for standardized packaging of tobacco products.
This is the second and final consultation to be held but the first following the publication of draft regulations.
The consultation is due to close on Aug. 7.
In responding to the government’s announcement, Imperial Tobacco said the government had already consulted the public, at which time 64 percent of more than 600,000 respondents had said they were against standardized packaging.
“The so-called ‘evidence’ in favor of plain packs is so threadbare that legislating would make a mockery of the government’s commitment to better regulation,” the company said in a note posted on its website.
“The government is ignoring what’s happening in Australia, which is the only country to introduce plain packaging, in December 2012.
“The evidence from Australia is clear. KPMG reports show there has been no reduction in the number of people smoking but there has been an increase in illicit trade, from 11.8 percent of total consumption in 2012 to 13.9 percent in 2013.
“Furthermore, the Australian government is going to conduct its own review of plain packaging in December 2014.
“Imperial Tobacco will be highlighting the lack of evidence in our submission to this consultation.”
Meanwhile, Simon Clark, the director of Forest, which runs the Hands off Our Packs campaign (www.handsoffourpacks.com), said standardized packaging was another step toward the infantilization of Britain.
“If the consultation is to have any meaning, ministers must keep an open mind. The impact of plain packaging on retailers and consumers could be extremely damaging.
“Evidence suggests that standardized packaging could lead to the U.K. being flooded with fake cigarettes.
“A decision to introduce plain packaging must be based on hard evidence that the policy will stop children smoking. Conjecture and subjective opinion are not enough when the risks are so high.”
Clark said the government should take into account also a previous consultation that attracted over 650,000 responses, with over 425,000 people opposed to plain packaging and 238,000 in favor.
“In recent weeks thousands of people have signed a letter to the prime minister urging him to say no to plain packaging (www.noprimeminister.org.uk).
“The government must take into account the strongly held views of ordinary consumers.”
Clark urged consumers and retailers to support Forest’s No, Prime Minister Initiative.
“Via our microsite, you can write direct to Downing Street and register your opposition to plain packaging. It takes no more than a minute of your time.”