The plain truth

Brian Monteith’s views on standardised packaging for ­tobacco products (Perspective, 
25 August) are once again long on hyperbole but short on facts.

The suggestion that plain packs lead to an increase in illicit ­tobacco is a myth, despite the ­repeated assertions of those who parrot this bogus tobacco industry claim.

Sir Cyril Chantler, who reviewed the issue of plain packs for the UK government, concluded there had been no indication of a rise in illicit tobacco in Australia (which has plain packs already) and a tiny proportion of illegal products seized have been in plain packs. A representative of British American Tobacco even admitted to Sir Cyril that the company had seen a reduction in counterfeiting since the introduction of plain packaging.

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Mr Monteith complains the health warning images on plain packs are “repulsive” – but the point of them is to repulse. The new packs are designed to stop young people being attracted to flashily designed packaging.

They are therefore primarily intended to make an impact on future smoking rates. However, there is also good news around current rates, despite your commentator’s claims to the contrary. Tax figures shows a 3.4 per cent decrease in tobacco sold in Australia in 2013, after plain packs were introduced. With the population increasing, this suggests per capita tobacco use fell by around 5 per cent over the year.

Two-thirds of smokers in Scotland start before they are 18. The Westminster government needs to move quickly on plain packs to help us tackle that alarming problem.

Sheila Duffy

ASH Scotland