Illicit cigarettes

I WRITE in response to the opinions expressed by Sheila Duffy, chief executive of ASH Scotland (Friends of the Scotsman, and Letters, 2 October).

She asserts that plain packaging would not have any effect on the spiralling problem of illicit tobacco. As someone who has worked in the packaging industry for more than 40 years, I disagree wholeheartedly with that point of view.

The production of packaging is a complex process and involves not only the common 20’s carton but a range of other products all produced to exacting standards. The complexity and sophistication involved in their production ensures the products are difficult to reproduce by counterfeiters and suppliers to the illicit trade.

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The printing techniques for the branding on the packs employ enhanced design features, such as embossing, debossing, hot-foil stamping and UV varnish, among others, and typically use between eight and ten unique colours from state-of-the-art printing equipment.

In contrast, pictorial health warnings which would feature on plain packaging can be produced and reproduced using low-cost printing techniques from equipment readily available in the market using just four basic print colours.

I have no doubt any move to a plain-packaging specification will benefit the counterfeiter and producer of fake products.

Mike Ridgway

Former MD Weidenhammer UK and spokesman for six packaging companies


THE Scottish Grocers Federation suggests we don’t need plain, standardised packs for tobacco products because young people get cigarettes from adults and because we should focus on tackling health inequalities ­(Letters, 4 October).

But any credible response to what is by far the biggest cause of preventable disease and death will combine a range of measures. In the Scottish Government’s tobacco strategy introducing standard packs is one action out of 46. In the Irish strategy, launched this week, it is one of 60 recommendations.

Of course it is important to know how young people access cigarettes – the latest survey showed that 55 per cent of 15-year-old regular smokers got cigarettes from adults, but also that 54 per cent bought them directly from shops. But as well as how they get them we have to address why they want them in the first place. The whole point of standardised packaging is that removing the brands, logos and designs will leave fewer young people wanting cigarettes, from whatever source.

I fully agree that tobacco plays a key part in health inequalities – and smoking has a greater impact on mortality than social class.

This is a strong argument for targeted support to our most vulnerable communities. It is not an excuse to delay a measure to reduce smoking uptake among all of our children.

Sheila Duffy

Chief executive
ASH Scotland

Frederick Street