15th November 2017
Mr Steve Brine MP
Public Health Minister
Department of Health
London, SW1A 2NS
I am writing to you regarding the discovery by law enforcement agencies of the first counterfeit tobacco plain packages. I believe that these seizures have taken place at multiple locations across both England and Scotland and have involved different types of brands.
Many in the supply chain including the TRA warned that this was likely to happen as the debate around plain packaging took place. We highlighted that it would make it easier to counterfeit given that there was in effect only one design to copy and thus making it more profitable for smugglers and organised gangs to become involved.
I am particularly concerned that given the difficulties in identifying what are counterfeit and non-counterfeit tobacco plain packs, legitimate small retailers may be unwittingly dragged into the illicit market through no fault of their own. Indeed, HMRC warned of this very point in the impact assessment that was undertaken.
Please could you let me know what action, as the Department that introduced this measure and with primacy over it, the Department of Health intends to take in terms of addressing this issue at the national level particularly in respect for the need for clear messages to retailers on how to identify such counterfeit packs and avoid being subject to such scams. Indeed, it would be helpful if you could set out from a Government perspective what assurances are you able to give to local retailers in terms of clear messages and education and what this looks like in terms of clear action.
I am also writing to National Trading Standards and the Local Government Association given the statutory duty placed on local authorities to investigate counterfeit goods at the local level and asking them to also set out their intended course of action.
Given the wider public concerns in respect to this development I will be making this letter public and placing a copy on the TRA website. I look forward to your response on the points I raise above.
Tobacco Retailers’ Alliance