THE tobacco giant JTI is preparing to challenge the Scottish Government’s plain cigarette packets plans in an advertising campaign next week.
It will reveal correspondence, obtained through Freedom of Information, from the Department of Health in which officials state there is no hard evidence to suggest the change will cut smoking levels.
SNP health minister Michael Matheson announced last week that Scotland would be the first part of the UK to introduce plain packaging and insisted this was based on “available evidence”. Scottish Government officials say the Public Health Research Consortium has found the plans will reduce attractiveness and stop youngsters taking up the habit.
The FOI correspondence, which has been seen by The Scotsman but cannot yet be published, will be part of an advertising campaign and dates from 2011.
In December, Australia became the first country to use plain packaging for cigarettes.
The tobacco firm says that the Scottish public should be made aware of the full facts.
JTI UK managing director Jorge da Motta said: “We hope common sense will prevail and that the Scottish Government will disregard this proposal.
“We have always argued that plain packaging will not prevent children from smoking, but enforcing existing initiatives such as ‘No ID, No Sale’, application of the law that punishes those who buy tobacco on the behalf of children and cutting the illegal supply chain, can work.”
The Advertising Standards Authority banned an advert run by JTI in the national press in 2012. It wrongly stated the UK government had “rejected” plain packaging for tobacco because there was no evidence to support such a policy in 2008. Ministers insisted they were keeping it under review.
The Scottish government’s plans, contained in its tobacco control strategy published last week, are the latest in a series of measures to cut smoking. A spokeswoman said: “There is strong evidence which links the promotion of tobacco to the uptake of smoking, particularly amongst young people and we are trying to prevent as many people from starting smoking as possible.”