Plain cigarette packs won’t have desired effect

The government has consulted on its proposals three times in as many years. Picture: PA

The government has consulted on its proposals three times in as many years. Picture: PA

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AN ARTICLE in this newspaper, “Plain cigarette packets will help to stop tobacco being marketed to the next generation” (12 February), ignores the fact that there is no credible evidence to prove that plain packaging would stop young people from taking up smoking.

Surely, government policy and legislation should always be founded on reliable evidence, rather than subjective opinion? To do otherwise runs the risk of legislation that “looks good” rather than “does good”. I fear this is the case with plain packaging.

The government has consulted on its proposals for plain packaging no less than three times in as many years.

The inescapable fact is that three times it received a resounding, majority response of “no thank you” from the public, retailers and leading business groups. It seems this was the wrong answer. So it will be ignored.

What evidence does exist, the government is also choosing to ignore.

Evidence from Australia – the only place to have introduced plain packs, suggests that since doing so in 2012, youth smoking rates have not declined – they are at a seven-year high; there has been no acceleration in the pre-existing downward trend in smoking rates, and health warnings have not become more effective.

The illegal trade in tobacco products has also grown. In 2012, it stood at 11.8 per cent of total consumption. By mid-2014, it had risen to 14.7 per cent.

The illicit trade in tobacco is bad for government, it is bad for the taxpayer, and it is bad for small- and medium-sized retailers. Worst of all, it is bad for our young people because it gives them greater access to supplies of cheap, unregulated tobacco, which they can buy with “no questions asked”.

None of us can afford for these facts to be ignored any longer.

• Suleman Khonat is an independent retailer and national spokesman for the Tobacco Retailers’ Alliance

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