Plain Packaging One Year On

One Year on – the impact of TPD and Plain Packaging on the Independent Retail Sector

May 2018 marks the first anniversary of the introduction of plain packaging of tobacco products and the ban on small tobacco packs (packs with less than 20 cigarettes or hand rolling with less than 30 grams) in the UK.

We had received numerous anecdotal reports on the impact of these measures and so the Tobacco Retailers’ Alliance, the group that represents tens of thousands of independent stores that sell tobacco, conducted a survey of its members to understand and quantify the impact of these measures.

The key findings, based on more than 250 responses, are extremely worrying. They show that 58% of retailers are aware of fake (counterfeit) plain packaged tobacco products being sold in their local area; 72% believe that there is more illegal or very cheap tobacco sold in their local area than before plain packaging was introduced. 80% of responding retailers said that the ban on small packs of tobacco has reduced their footfall and with half saying that their footfall has fallen between 20% and 30% due to the ban on small packs of tobacco.

It is therefore clear that the impact of plain packaging and the ban on small packs are having a hugely damaging impact on independent retailers across the country. Plain packaging has simply made it easier for criminals to introduce fake packs taking away legitimate trade whilst the small pack ban has further damaged trade by hitting footfall and incidental spend. This is double whammy of woe cooked up by the health lobbyists whilst the government simply chose to ignore all the warnings that such measures would have this impact.

It also comes as law enforcement agencies across the UK have made repeated discoveries of fake plain package tobacco products whilst are dealing with reductions in operational budgets. Respondents also said that fake cigarettes are sold in, for example, ice cream vans, and some had reported as much as 50% decline in footfall.

The governments in Westminster, as well as in the devolved nations, should realise that the consequences of ineffective legislation are far reaching and often damage livelihoods of the very hardworking legitimate small retailers. It’s clear the retailers are telling us, and what is apparent from the survey, is a different picture to what the public health campaigners and ministers are wanting us to believe. It’s time Government listened to the retail sector rather than the shrill voices who call for ever more draconian measures.

The Government therefore needs to reconsider these measures not least given that they were warned of the potential negative consequences. It’s clear that both plain packaging and the small pack ban are failing and we should use our departure from EU and the opportunities presented by Brexit to reverse these measures.

 

Suleman Khonat

National Spokesperson

Tobacco Retailers’ Alliance